Tetris Effect: Connected review – the ultimate puzzle game

The new version of Tetris Effect adds some addictive new multiplayer modes to create the definitive edition of the world’s favourite puzzler.

A reboot of a game that was first released in 1984 doesn’t strike one as the most obvious Xbox Series X launch title. It’s true that Tetris Effect: Connected has absolutely no need of next gen technological trickery like ray-tracing but Tetris isn’t any ordinary puzzler – it’s one of the most popular and recognisable video games ever created. Tetris Effect: Connected underlines that, even after all these decades, the block-matching puzzler somehow manages to remain relevant.

Tetris-heads are likely be familiar with Tetris Effect, the 2018 Tetris rework created by Tetsuya Mizuguchi of Rez and Lumines fame (the latter itself being heavily influenced by Tetris). Essentially, Tetris Effect: Connected is Tetris Effect 2.0, in that it adds online and local co-operative and competitive play to the Tetris Effect blueprint.

Anyone who played Lumines (and to an extent Rez) will recognise the hand of Mizuguchi in Tetris Effect: Connected. As well as being a great games developer Mizuguchi is a fine musician, particularly adept at creating melodic trance and ambient soundscapes, and his games always involve fusing winsome music and distinctly psychedelic visuals. That vibe is very much in evidence in Tetris Effect: Connected, as it provides a wonderfully mesmeric experience, which also manages to be soothing in a Zen-like manner – until you hit a point at which those blocks start raining down at speed.

When you play online against someone else proceedings can become frenetic very quickly. There are some insanely dexterous Tetris players out there who, it seems, take their falling blocks very seriously. However, you can also play locally against family members, using various sets of rules. Tetris Effect: Connected allows you to perform ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ drops of its blocks, plus you can hold unfavoured blocks in a queue.

There’s also a Zone mechanic, which freezes everything temporarily and lets you concentrate on filling your horizontal lines. Although if you don’t like the sound of all that you can opt to use old-school Tetris rules if you want.

It’s when you play it co-operatively that Tetris Effect: Connected really shines – either online or locally against up to two other people. At first, you and your partners concentrate on completing as many lines as possible (with a computer-controlled ‘enemy’) doing the same. You will also have to negotiate periods of disruption which mess up your board, and sometimes cope with giant, non-standard blocks.

But if you fill enough lines, yours and your co-op players’ boards will merge, giving you a double or triple-width playing field, into which you must take turns inserting your blocks to fill as many lines as possible – the more lines you fill, the more it disrupts your mutual enemy. It’s truly co-operative gameplay than anyone can understand (just as well, since there’s no way to communicate with the other players) and is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

When you play Tetris Effect: Connected solo it has several modes which are sufficiently varied that you’ll marvel at such a simple game’s capacity to support such multifarious gameplay. Journey mode presents a string of Tetris boards, each with different boards and music, which gradually ramp up the difficulty levels as you progress (cutely, any successes you have solo or online level you up like a role-playing game).

Effect mode is a pick-and-mix containing every imaginable variant of Tetris, designed to suit your mood at any given moment. Select it, and you’ll be able to play, for example, short timed matches with the goal of completing as many lines as possible or marathons in which speed levels stay relatively low, inviting you to see how quickly you can get to, say, 150 lines completed.

There’s also cleverly rigged (in terms of the blocks you’re given) All Clear and Combo timed challenges, playlists designed to help you chill out, and games in which you must clear specific blocks to succeed.

It will all leave you marvelling at the innate versatility of Tetris’s basic idea. No matter what type of Tetris player you are, you will find something in Effect mode that induces near-obsession.

Tetris Effect: Connected may not stand out as the most obviously essential game to purchase when you take delivery of an Xbox Series X or S, and the new features will be released as free DLC for the existing PlayStation, PC, and Oculus Quest versions next summer. However, it is a most excellent update of the original Tetris Effect and worth acquiring for the co-op mode alone.

Its surprising diversity and generally soothing vibe makes it an excellent lockdown game and if you have Game Pass, with which it comes for free, it’s a no-brainer of a download. Whatever your expectations for it, Tetris Effect: Connected will surprise you. Which given that we all know exactly what Tetris is like, is something of a revelation.

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