Anyone who has played a game Tetsuya Mizuguchi has been involved in, will know his proclivity for expertly grafting musical beats onto gameplay. Lumines, Every Extend Extra, Child of Eden and of course Rez, all demonstrate his keen ear for beats and how they can be incorporated directly into – and be affect by, the gameplay on screen.
Tetris Effect: Connected takes that to the next level creating an audiovisual journey unlike anything most will have experienced. It’s pretty easy to say Tetris Effect is just Tetris meets Rez and honestly you wouldn’t be that far from the truth, but the attention to detail here even in the design language is just incredible.
I mean yeah, in the end it’s “just Tetris” but it goes deeper than that. This is a Tetris game that can be as chill or as intense as you want it or need it to be. It’s an experience that draws you in, you can’t help but lose yourself for hours. My wife came to have “a quick look” for a few minutes and sat through the rest of my Journey Mode playthrough. Took the headphones off me to boot. In short, this is the best version of Tetris to date.
Now I’m well aware Tetris Effect: Connected isn’t technically a new game. It’s the same game that came to PS4 and Oculus back in 2018. Connected is the timed exclusive Multiplayer expansion to that game. It’s a fairly decent suite of Multiplayer options to select from.
At it’s core, there are three main multiplayer modes. Connected, Zoned Battle and Score Attack. But above those, you can play these modes under three different umbrellas. Ranked, Friend and Local – all of which set up the way they sound. Ranked mode matches you up with other players online, Friend mode allows you to create a private match or join someone from your friends list. Local is obviously your offline couch multiplayer mode.
Score Attack is your more conventional multiplayer game of Tetris where you take on another opponent to get the highest score. Zone Battle is your traditional Tetris Battle with a twist, where the “Zone” slow down line stacking mode added to the original version Effect makes it’s way into the multiplayer battle.
Connected, which is the feature mode and the title of the expansion, is where you can team up with matchmade players to take on an AI Boss (which are generally based on astrology). The three of you build up your zone meters and once all full, your 3 “screens” merge into one giant screen and you all combine to create lines and stack the bosses screen, hopefully pushing to knock them out. It’s actually quite fun but be warned, when playing with matchmade players your fate really is in their hands to an extent. You’re relying on strangers to hopefully play Tetris similarly to you. While I did experience a touch of lag playing online, it’s not really a twitch shooter so it doesn’t hurt much. Having said that, I play pretty fast so it was mildly frustrating having to slow down to a speed I’m not normally accustomed to.
But the real stars of the show here are the visuals and the audio. Tetris Effect: Connected is mesmerizing. It’s the ultimate convergence of audio and visual design in a video game. As I alluded to earlier, Rez did this really well back in 2001 on the Dreamcast, but Tetris Effect does it even better. You’re effectively creating the music ad hoc with your piece placement and movement. You affect the environment with a Tetris or as you progress through levels. The game drives you forward to progress with the reward being visual gratification.
But the visual design goes further than that. By all rights, everything going on in the background should be distracting, it should affect your ability to focus and concentrate. But it doesn’t. The use of negative 3D space and slightly off centre play area keep your focus exactly where it should be yet at the same time, you’re fully able to take in everything going on in the background. It’s a masterclass in visual design.
The Journey mode is where the game really flexes it’s visual muscles though. Travelling through different zones and areas is just a joy. You want to complete each level as fast as possible to get to the next one.
Mind you, I haven’t even covered the soundtrack yet. Which is just ridiculous. As a lover of electronic music, Tetris Effect is heaven on the ears. This is the sort of stuff that stands toe to toe with Sega’s best from Streets of Rage 2. Which is fitting given Mizuguchi’s origins with Sega.
There’s not much else that needs to be said. Tetris Effect: Connected is to this point the best version of Tetris that exists. I adore Tetris99 and up until now, Tetris DS was probably my all-time favourite, but Connected just blows right past both.
Outside very very minor quibbles with the slight lag in multiplayer and my disappointment at the missed opportunity for Achievement art, there’s nothing actually wrong with this game.
It’s mandatory for Tetris and puzzle game fans, a must for music lovers and anyone who appreciates good visual artistry. But most importantly, it’s just so damn fun. Xbox owners have no excuse not to dive in as Tetris Effect: Connected launched straight into Game Pass and I implore everyone to give it a try.