There were no shortage of people who scoffed at Tetris Effect when it was announced at E3 2018 earlier in the year, but anyone who’s played Rez Infinite on PlayStation VR will have understood. Tetsuya Mizuguchi, the mastermind behind the likes of Lumines and Child of Eden, excels at evoking emotional responses through audio-visual experiences – and he’s just transformed a classic Russian puzzler into a borderline spiritual experience.
Playable on standard television screen in 4K resolution on a PlayStation 4 Pro, there’s no doubt that this game excels with its optional PSVR mode. The main campaign, Journey, is Tetris – but at the expense of sounding like a beard stroking, mochachino sipping hipster, it’s a spiritual rollercoaster. You start out underwater, with each tetromino tilt playing blips and blops in key with the rumbling synth backdrop.
As you clear lines, the scene gradually grows along with the audio, and giant whales swim around the stage. A new mechanic, Zone, encourages you to clear as many lines as you possibly can before a meter runs out or you touch the top – a neat twist which adds a different dimension to the timeless gameplay. But it’s the way in which the presentation pairs with the gameplay that takes it to a different level: lights strobe in time to the music, glitter flickers in front of your eyes, and the audio crescendos until you’re taken to the next scene to do it all again.
There are three stages in the demo, each with a different theme. The underwater area is followed by a kind of Mayan backdrop, with rap music and mythical icons. Then you end up in a fiery lair, with people chanting as infernos rage around you. The campaign looks large, and while you’ll probably be able to see it all in a few hours, the beauty of a game like Tetris is that it’s designed to be replayed over and over again.
Outside of the Journey mode are an array of other options, including classic Marathon mode. Everything you do in the game rewards you with experience points, and naturally there are scoreboards. One neat feature is that when you’re connected to the Internet, you can see where in the world other people are playing, and occasionally small whales will float above the surface of the Earth, with their PSN profile attached.
It feels like a really robust package, and it obviously looks and plays great on a standard television screen. But it’s in virtual reality, with the heightened sense of scale and immersion, that this game will achieve its full potential. So yes, it may “just” be Tetris – but this is with a Mizuguchi twist. Much like the excellent Rez Infinite a couple of years ago, there’s something melancholy – something meaningful here. Put simply, you need to experience it for yourself.
Are you looking forward to Tetris Effect? Will you be playing the puzzler on a standard screen or in virtual reality? Be ours forever in the comments section below.