Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s goal with Child of Eden was to give players a sense of synesthesia. Synesthesia, as defined by Psychology Today, is “a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway (e.g., hearing) leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway (e.g., vision). Simply put, when one sense is activated, another unrelated sense is activated at the same time.” To put this in simpler terms, “take the form of hearing music and simultaneously sensing the sound as swirls or patterns of color.” You never thought you’d put something like that in the same sentence as Tetris, did you?
If you read my preview article for Tetris Effect from this year’s E3, you know I’ve been hyped to play the full version ever since. Tetris Effect did not disappoint and brought me just as much joy as previous Mizuguchi titles have in the past. If you’re a fan of Mizuguchi’s work, and you’re afraid you can’t be immersed into something like Tetris, I promise you, there’s nothing to be afraid of.
There is no doubt that any game Mizuguchi has produced in his career always pushed the limitations of graphical capabilities. Whether you’re playing in 3D with your PSVR headset, or on a standard display, the game is simply beautiful. If you’re playing on a 4K TV with a PlayStation 4 Pro, Tetris Effect will run at 60FPS. With vibrant colors that dance around the screen in sync with the music, there’s nothing boring about this game.
While Tetris Effect doesn’t really have a traditional story, it does have a symbolic story of its own. Journey Mode takes you all over the world. The depths of the ocean, New York, aside hot air balloons in the mountains – Tetris Effect takes you places to show you music is everywhere, too. In this game, the graphics and music are intertwined. You can see the sounds in background effects, and hear how you move the pieces.
If you own a PlayStation VR headset, I highly recommend playing the game in VR. Wearing glasses with a VR headset can be a pain at times, but the high levels of immersion had me forgetting the bottoms of my frames were digging into my face. The 3D effects weren’t too intense and did a great job of making me feel as if I was in the game itself. Upon beating the Journey Mode (on any difficulty), you unlock a mode where you can just sit back and enjoy the visuals without having to worry about playing Tetris.
If you’re unfamiliar with Mizuguchi’s previous titles, you get to go into Tetris Effect expecting a newer version of Tetris. Aside from Journey Mode, the game also offers “Effect Modes.” There are four categories: Classic, Relax, Focus, and Adventurous. These modes offer a large variety of gameplay, both challenging and relaxing. Classic offers traditional challenges, such as Marathon. Marathon has no game over, and the goal is to clear 150 lines with the highest score possible. Relax has multiple modes with no game over, including three playlists (Sea, Wind, and World). The playlist modes are a single stage of four continuous tracks of ambient music.
Focus category modes offer modes to help you increase your skills. For example, Combo has you getting as many combos as you can before time runs out. With each combo you achieve, a little bit of time goes back on the clock. All of the Focus Effect modes are like this, offering hours of challenging fun. Adventurous is slightly similar, offering modes like Purify and Mystery. In Purify, you have to eliminate as many dark blocks as possible in three minutes. Mystery mode is, well, mysterious. The marathon session will throw random effects at you (some good, mostly bad), keeping you on your toes.
If there is one thing that is super consistent in all of Mizuguchi’s work, it’s how amazing the music is. Rez, Child of Eden, Lumines, Every Extend Extra – it doesn’t matter, the music is always on point. While his style of gameplay has always been noted as an acquired taste, his music is truly art. Tetris Effect still holds an overall “EDM” vibe, but it has something for everyone. The soundtrack takes inspiration from places all around the world and has various speeds. Not everything is bass heavy and super fast – some tracks are slower and quite relaxing.
The Effect Modes offer additional tracks to what is heard in Story Mode. While recycling graphics from Story Mode, the “Playlist” modes offer new tracks. The music is a lot slower, and while still incorporated with the visuals and actions you make, it’s a very pleasant experience. Other Effect Modes like Purify and Sprint offer original tracks, as well.
Going into depth about the music in this game is difficult to do. Playing the game and listening to the music is an experience of its own. The music in Mizuguchi’s titles is the true star, and you should have a listen for yourself. Experience the visuals and sounds and feel what all the hype is about. What I don’t understand, however, is how Tetris Effect didn’t get a nomination for best score/music at The Game Awards. That legitimately blows my mind.
Tetris Effect is more than meets the eye. It isn’t just regular Tetris with fancy lights and cool music. The game beautifully revives an old classic and offers a lot. In addition to the Effect Modes, there is a Weekend Ritual (it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like). Each weekend, the game offers a unique stage for players to enjoy. Recently, the Weekend Ritual was a retro Tetris stage, which players found out they could keep permanently once they hit level 50.
If you’re looking for a game that is both simple and challenging, intense and relaxing, Tetris Effect covers all of the bases. You can be in the mood for something fast-paced, and filled with heavy bass, or something calming with ambient tunes; Tetris Effect has everything. It’s familiar, it’s beautiful, and should be a part of everyone’s PlayStation 4 game collection. The addition of a couch co-op or online multiplayer mode would truly be the cherry on top. There has been no talk of adding multiplayer, but even without it, the game is still fantastic.
This review was played on the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR with a digital code provided by PlayStation.