Tetsuya Mizuguchi is one of the most celebrated developer’s of our time. He was responsible for Rez Infinite, Lumines, and the classic Space Channel 5- his works have stood the test of time and are designed to evoke a sense of wonder and theater rarely seen in gaming. His latest work, Tetris Effect, a PS4 exclusive Tetris – sounds dull on paper, but is absolutely breathtaking in play. So what happens when you take something as simple as Tetris and combine it with the mind of Mizuguchi? Well – you have what could be the greatest Tetris game of all time.
Tetris Effect at it’s core is… Tetris. However, that would be selling the game short. Tetris Effect differentiates itself from the myriad of other Tetris games released over the years by making Tetris into art – and unabashedly so.
The game is divided into multiple zones with 30 + stages. Each stage plays off like an album. The more lines you have completed the more the music changes. Every move the player makes operates a sound, the sound evolves as lines are cleared whilst slowly changing its dynamics, and the evolution ultimately reaches a cacophony of awe and wonder- until it erupts into the next zone.
Visually each stage has it’s own theme. Whether it be dolphins, or camels in the desert, or just a splash of color – the levels often start simple, but as the player continues to rack up points – they grow into something far greater, obtuse, and monumental. The grandeur of sight and sound are thrown out in a way I haven’t seen since Rez Infinite.
The closest inspiration I can find is Lumines. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say Tetris Effect is the unofficial sequel to the Lumines formula. The way movement, urgency, and the soundtrack layer on top of one another to rush the senses is everything I experienced first in Lumines – only it’s taken up a notch!
The biggest innovation in the gameplay of Tetris Effect is a mechanic literally dubbed “Tetris Effect”. When the Zone bar fills up, players are urged to press the trigger buttons to manipulate time. During the Zone mode- players can rack up extra points and slow down the game to think through any strategies that may help them clean up any unnecessary messes. This adds a level of dynamism and strategy that helps keep gameplay fresh. And it’s this. The genius behind Tetris Effect isn’t blocks and lines, it’s the ability to compose music. It’s the ability to make you active member of the soundtrack. To put it bluntly, it’s avant-garde in a way that few games ever aspire to.
So what else is there to say? Tetris Effect is the best Tetris ever made. Full stop. The music, visuals, and artistic flourishes are unlike any thing you’ve experienced in a Tetris game before. What the game accomplishes is pushing the old formula of blocks and lines to it’s absolute brink. So the question should be – Can you teach an old dog new tricks? In the case of Tetris Effect, you sure as hell can.