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Tetris Effect Hands-On Impressions

A cool, immersive take on a classic.

by Dylan Siegler

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About a week before E3, Sony counted down the days until their PlayStation press conference by making a new announcement every day until the presentation. The first of these announcements was for a new game called Tetris Effect, a new take on the classic puzzle game Tetris. The announcement trailer promised trippy visuals along with music and sound effects that line up with your movements in a unique experience. And with that experience available in VR, it’s hard to not find the game at least intriguing.

At Sony’s E3 booth, I got the chance to strap into a VR headset and be one of the first to test out Tetris Effect. And it certainly was an experience. As far as gameplay goes, it’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect; it’s Tetris. If you’re a gamer, you’ve probably played some form of Tetris at some point in your life. At its core, this new game is still the addicting puzzle game from the 80s. So if you’re a fan of the original Tetris, or any of its other incarnations, you’ll likely find enjoyment in this new version as well.

The most noticeable change that Tetris Effect makes to the original Tetris formula are those aforementioned visuals, sounds and music that immerse you in the game. Tetris is already pretty immersive on its own, being one of those games that’s super easy to get way too caught up in. But playing with spacey, colorful imagery surrounding the screen and music notes coming from the blocks every time you move them is like being transported to your own little Tetris world. It all also makes playing the game a weirdly calming experience. Even if you make a mistake that might cost you the round, it’s hard to get mad when everything looks and sounds so chill and cool (then again, I was never the most competitive of people, so maybe this is just me). It might seem like there’s a lot going on, but I was never distracted from the main game. In fact, the opposite is more likely to occur; you’ll probably get so caught up in stacking blocks that you might not have time to appreciate the visuals and music. Which is kind of a shame, but if you want, you can always turn down the difficulty level to remove some of the pressure and take in everything.

The big game changer in Tetris Effect is the addition of the “Zone.” This is a mechanic new to this version of Tetris that was originally described as a way to freeze falling blocks in place, presumably allowing you more time to think about where to drop them without the pressure of worrying about the time limit of them falling. As it turns out, the Zone is a bit more complicated than this. As you form lines and get points, your Zone meter will go up. Once it is full, you can press L2 or R2 to activate the Zone. While in the Zone, blocks do in fact stop falling, but the Zone acts more like a bonus round, rather than a way to just make the game easier. Lines that you form while in the Zone get transported to the bottom of the stack, rather than just disappearing, making gameplay in the Zone harder the longer you spend in it. Once your time in the Zone eventually ends, you are given more points based on how many lines you were able to create in the Zone, at which point all those completed lines then disappear from the bottom of your stack and you continue playing as normal again. I thought this was a cool new addition to the game, giving some more depth and strategy to the classic gameplay. And for you Tetris purists out there, you’ll be glad to know that the Zone is completely optional; you can simply decide to never use it if you want a more traditional Tetris experience.

Tetris Effect is a weirdly calming and immersive experience and it’s pretty cool. If you’re a Tetris enthusiast and have an opportunity to try out this new take on it, I would certainly recommend it. Tetris Effect is coming to the PlayStation 4 with optional VR capabilities sometime this fall.

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