Tetris Effect: Connected Review
How good can Tetris get? The definitive version on the Gameboy (or NES) did everything that this genre needed to do. Every effort since has just been more of the same. How much innovation can there be after billions of blocks?
Turns out, you can squeeze quite a lot out of it.
There’s been plenty to play on Xbox Series X this past week, but Tetris Effect: Connected has proven to be the most addictive. If you have Gamepass, there’s no excuse not to play it.
Tetris Effect is the same game you’ve know and loved for three decades: drop blocks of different shapes to create full lines, which dissolve to make room for more lines. Continue as long as you can while amassing as many points as possible. It’s simple, it’s fun, and that’s why it’s one of the most recognisable video games of all time.
Connected takes that gameplay, makes it as sharp as it possibly can be, and then builds on top of it with music, lights and video. It combines the basic gameplay loop with emotion, with ideas, and I can’t stress how awesome that is. It goes beyond just the game.
These two segments – the game and the art – would be so easy to get wrong, but thankfully they’re both excellent, leading to the elevation of both. If this is sounding pretentious, know that most importantly Tetris Effect: Connected is still incredible fun.
I can’t remember the last time I played such a well-designed Tetris game. I don’t know whether it’s down to the reduced input lag that Microsoft has bragged about or if the developers have done some specific, but this is as tight as I’ve ever felt it. Things go where you want them to go. Even trying out other Tetris titles for comparison, it’s obvious that Effect just feels better.
The single player “journey” mode has you clearing a set number of lines across a collection of challenges that could easily be music videos as much as game levels. For example, there are levels that start in basic silence except for the sound of you spinning your shape. That in itself creates a kind of echoey background song which, as you get closer to completion, grows into a rock song or symphony.
Living with the Tetris Effect
Pretty much all modes have a new mechanic called Zone. You collect ‘Zone’ as you clear lines, and when you unleash it every line you clear disappears to the bottom of the grid. Clear more lines, get more points, while also putting some of those lines onto your opponent.
There’s a clever dual mechanic to Zone that is well worth mentioning. On one hand it can be used to get yourself out of a difficult position. It slows down time, changes the way lines are distributed – it can very easily be a lifesaver.
It’s also useful in an offensive way, and Tetris grandmasters will no doubt use it to obliterate unsuspecting competition. Good use of Zone can take an opponent from zero lines to game over in a split second, which actually is a complaint rather than a compliment.
If Journey is experimental, multiplayer is most familiar. There are a few modes to pick from, including the standards. Get points as the game gets gradually faster has been the go-to for decades, while a new score battle brings Zone into play.
On the other hand, a co-op mode feels brand new. Three players must face off against the computer, first in individual grids and then in one giant one. If that sounds easy, you can add enemy distractions to the mix. For instance, making every block double the size or mixing up your grid so you lose any progress you’d made. This ranges from laughably easy to incredibly frustrating, but it’s great to have a fun, co-op mode in Tetris that does something different.
Graphics and Sound
Visually, Tetris Effect: Connected is stunning. Playing on an OLED screen in a dark room, the blocks just blend into the background. HDR makes every firework, every spot of light burst with colour. That’s actually to the point where it’s too bright at times.
Using Smart Delivery, I tried out Connected on my old One X, which is hooked up to an old but decent 1080p screen. It’s not the same. The gameplay is still fun, but you’re losing out by not take advantage of 4k and HDR.
Sound is masterful. The songs I wouldn’t necessarily listen to outside the game, but they just work within it. So much of Journey mode in particular is about changing the way the player feels, and music is used to great effect.
Tetris Effect: Connected Review – Conclusion
Maybe another version of Tetris is an odd title to be excited for when it comes to a new generation, but if you feel that way you haven’t played Tetris Effect: Connected. It’s addictive and fun, and incredible in multiplayer. It’s a visual feast that ignores the bells and whistles we thought we wanted from next-gen, but still surpasses so much of it so simply. It is the embodiment of creativity and talent over just having better tech.
Download this title, and give it the time it deserves. Hexic HD was the surprise hit on Xbox 360 – Tetris Effect: Connected is what you should check on on Series X.