Tetris Effect review: Lose yourself in the rhythm

Enhanced Games
Enhanced Games /

Familiar line clearing gameplay married with brilliant soundscapes that are further enhanced in VR. Tetris Effect is a game that’s not to be missed.

Title: Tetris Effect
Developers: Resonair, Monstars Inc.
Publisher: Enhance Games
Platforms: PS4 (version reviewed), PlayStation VR
Release Date: November 9, 2019

The music/rhythm genre has always fascinated me. Whether it was long nights of Guitar Hero or gathering a group of friends for Rock Band, the idea of creating music with plastic instruments was novel, and most notably, fun. But my fascination with music games extended past those core experiences.

Rez fascinated me due to its mix of on-rails shooting mechanic mixed with a musical element that enhanced each level’s song. Much like Rez, Lumines was yet another fascinating marriage of music game with the puzzle genre. It’s no surprise then that the mastermind behind both of those games, Tetsuya Mizuguchi, is also behind the just-released Tetris Effect; a game that combines the familiar gameplay of Tetris with a breathtaking soundtrack and gorgeous visuals.

Tetris Effect
Credit: Sony /

Tetris Effect is, by and large, the Tetris game you grew up playing. Falling tetrominoes have to be arranged in lines to clear them. Where Tetris Effect differentiates itself is with a few new gameplay additions.

First and foremost, everything is accentuated by its fantastic soundtrack, that ranges from pop tunes, mellow ballads, tribal chants to ambient sounds. Every movement of your tetromino, whether it’s shifting it left and right, rotating it, and dropping it activates a sound or chord that adds to the background melody. Even better, no musical know-how is necessary. Everything just sounds good.

Another big addition is Zone activation. With a press of a trigger, assuming the gauge is built up, players enter the Zone which slows down time to a crawl and allows players to rack up line clears. However, it goes deeper than that. Every time a line clear happens, it shifts to the bottom of the screen, this means that players with disastrous boards have a chance to clear them.

While I haven’t been personally able to perform anything higher than an Octotris, I’ve seen other players perform a Perfectris, which means the entire board is cleared. It’s magical to witness, and I’m sure equally as exhilarating to pull off.

Tetris Effect
Enhanced Games /

Activating the Zone extends further than just trying to clear the most amount of lines in a limited time. Journey Mode, especially in the latter half, will mix up the speed in which tetrominoes fall depending on where you are in the song that’s calculated by the number of lines you’ve cleared. Some levels will start you off at level 3 speed and then drastically shift to level 10. This can certainly be daunting, especially if you’re board is already looking quite messy. Saving Zone activation for when the game speeds up is a smart way to get yourself out of a tricky situation.

With that said, the shifting of speeds during Journey Mode is easily the least enjoyable part, at least for me. As someone who enjoys the more relaxed paced of Tetris, and for its zen-like experience, having those ridiculous speed shifts breaks up the pacing for me.

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  • What’s supposed to be a relaxing line clearing experience turns into a stressful game of survival. Those levels on Journey Mode are easily some of the worst parts of the game, but thankfully once they’re cleared, they can be played without the crazy sped up sections.

    Players will spend a bulk of their time initially in the game’s Journey mode, which will take them through each of the levels containing a unique song, sounds and theme. Tetris has historically never been the most interesting game to look at, but Tetris Effect turns the visuals up to 11, with gorgeous backdrops that range from ice-covered mountains, a desolate moon, dry deserts and the bustling streets of a busy city. Each and every level is unique, of which there are over 20, and the combination of compelling soundscapes with often trippy visuals make for a euphoric experience.

    Outside of the game’s main Journey Mode, there are plenty of additional modes that put a unique spin on the traditional gameplay. For example, there’s a mode which sets up the board like a puzzle, and you’ll have a limited number of tetrominoes to clear the entire thing.

    Then there’s a mode where a beam of light shows where a single column of tetrominoes will fall, and you must set up the board in a limited amount of turns so that eventually that column will clear as many lines as possible. Another mode will have you try and clear line after line, trying to build up a high clear combo.

    Tetris Effect
    Enhanced Games /

    Of course, Tetris Effect can be played and enjoyed without PSVR, but it’s no secret that it absolutely shines with it. While I enjoyed Rez when it was re-released for PSVR, the bulk of the game didn’t seem to warrant the need to play in VR, at least until the last level which initially had to be unlocked, Area X. That level by itself justified the purchase of Rez for me since it was built from the ground up for VR, offering an absolutely amazing and gorgeous experience. Tetris Effect feels like Area X, but now it’s the entire game.

    Every stage comes alive with scenery flying around you and particles dancing around the screen, accentuating the beat and melody. The musical element gets accentuated even more in VR, as the visuals are matched with the beat, the controller vibrating to the rhythm, line clears explode into particles and the stage itself constantly shifting as you clear more and more lines.

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    It’s almost too easy to get lost in the game and its absolute beauty, something that feels odd to even say when talking about a Tetris game. Tetris Effect is, without a doubt, stunning and if you own a PSVR unit, it begs to be played in VR.

    Enhance Games. . Tetris Effect. 9.5. <em>Tetris Effect</em> might seem pricey at $40, especially for those that won’t even get to utilize its VR mode, but given the number of levels included, all with its own unique theme and song, as well as the slew of different modes that truly change up the way you play the game, it’s absolutely worth it, and not to be missed.

    A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.