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access_time July 9, 2020 at 3:00 PM in Reviews by David Poole

VR Review | Tetris Effect

Very few games out there are more iconic than Tetris. As the second best selling franchise in the world, Tetris is the pick-up-and-play puzzle game for everyone. While the formula changes sometimes, it’s often still the six different tetrominos dropping to the bottom to clear rows. Even then, the classic formula can be elevated even further, much like the Battle Royale setting of Tetris 99. Then there’s Tetris Effect from Enhance Games, which maintains the iconic gameplay, but gives you a new way to enhance your experience. This goes even further when you play it using a VR headset.

Tetris Effect isn’t exactly a new game, as it’s been available for PlayStation 4 since 2018. We even gave it a highlight in our PlayStation VR Top 10. Even so, it has steadily become available across other platforms, most recently the Oculus Quest. Named after the psychological term of the same name, Tetris Effect aims to deliver a new experience for your senses. When taking it into the VR space, you can feel immersed in this experience and let the effects surround you as you complete each stage.

While the gameplay sticks to the standard formula for the most part, there is one unique addition. Tetris Effect introduces Zones, a way to freeze time and drop multiple tetrominos in one combo. This allows for the player to clear more than four lines at once. If your skills are high enough, you can even clear 22 lines for an Impossibilitris. Of course, you can’t do this all the time, as Zone power builds as you clear lines. The more power you have, the longer your time will stop. It’s a cool addition to the gameplay that gives Tetris veterans an extra layer of challenge.

The game consists of roughly 30 stages, each with their own unique theme. These themes deliver a unique presentation for each stage, even coming with their own pace. Using various effects, the game has a visual smorgasbord of appeal that looks fantastic in motion. As the player clears lines, the visuals will evolve and change, keeping the momentum of the experience building even higher. In the Journey mode, stages are even tied together, allowing players to keep going from theme to theme.

While the visuals are fantastic, the real highlight of Tetris Effect goes to the audio. Not only is the music fantastic, with vocal tracks like “Yours Forever,” or “Next Chapter,” but the music is even tied to the gameplay. Moving your tetrominos goes along to the beat, and makes it so you can essentially control the music. Not only does it work perfectly, but it adds an additional level to how the game links to your senses. When in a VR space, it’s just you, the music, and the puzzle, and it all blends together in this immersive experience.

When you finish Journey mode, you unlock the ability to marathon the entire game from start to finish. This is a cool option for those that really want to test their skills. If that’s not your cup of tea and you prefer to relax, there’s also the Theater mode. This allows you to experience each theme without the pressure of clearing lines. Finally, you have the Effect modes, which deliver various challenges like getting as many All Clears before time runs out. The idea of this mode is to find a play style that fits your mood, and with 15 different modes, you’ll likely find it. You can even see how you rank with your friends as you level up your profile.

Even though the experience in VR is amazing, there are some hangups. When playing without VR, you have camera control of the stage, allowing to rotate the field of vision. This means you can adjust the angle so the tetrominos are coming toward you, or even shift it slightly to the side. Unfortunately in VR, this feature is limited to simply zooming in or out. While you can move around it a bit, it feels more restrictive, and I wish I had the same camera control as I do without VR. Other than that, the VR experience is still a fantastic way to play. Whichever way you prefer, this is what I consider the definitive Tetris game.

Depending on what platform you go with, the price will vary. While some prices might feel a little steep, Tetris Effect is still a worthy addition to a VR library. It’s great to pick up for a quick puzzle and can even be good if you just want a relaxing sensory journey. With fantastic music and a stellar visual presentation, this is an easy choice for any Tetris fan. I still find myself humming music from this game, even two years after the original release. Even without VR, this is still an excellent puzzle experience.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

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