I don’t just love Tetris, I honestly think it’s one of the few perfect video games. Its core mechanic of dropping and clearing blocks is so solid it forms the foundation of the entire puzzle genre. It’s hard (though not impossible) to mess up Tetris, but truly improving it takes impressive skill. So we were blown away when 2018’s Tetris Effect turned the simple game into a flat-out spiritual experience. While it’s not entirely a new game, Tetris Effect: Connected takes everything that worked in the Editors’ Choice original and enhances it with brilliant multiplayer and a gorgeous next-gen skin.
Tetris Effect: Connected is an expanded version of the original Tetris Effect, not a true sequel. Think of it like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on Nintendo Switch, which added a revamped battle mode alongside the content from the Wii U version. With Tetris Effect: Connected, you get added fidelity from next-gen console power and an entirely new set of multiplayer modes. The lack of multiplayer was our only real disappointment with the original game, so that’s a great change.
Right now, you can get Tetris Effect: Connected for $40 on Xbox consoles and Windows PCs. If you bought the original game for PlayStation 4 or VR headsets, you’ll receive the new content as a free expansion in 2021.
Past and Future
Those already familiar with Tetris Effect may feel tempted to dive right into the new stuff, but I recommend acquainting yourself with the original solo experience. Not just because it’s an incredible game (although it is), but also because Tetris Effect is so much about the journey that you should start at the beginning. In fact, its initial mode is actually called “Journey.”
If you think that sounds like a pretentious way to describe a puzzle game, you aren’t ready for Tetris Effect. Tetsuya Mizuguchi, genius Japanese puzzle designer behind Lumines and Rez, slathers his psychedelic aesthetic obsessions all over the Soviet game to create a worldly fusion of sights and sounds. As you clear lines, the scenery morphs around you, taking players from the deepest calming oceans to the interiors of dark space obelisks. The “Tetris Effect” is a real pre-existing neurological term that describes how puzzle games rewrite your brain to notice their patterns and act on instinct, shutting out the world around you. Tetris Effect intensely enhances that feeling by tying its gameplay to strong audiovisual stimuli. It’s synesthesia nirvana.
It’s also just a wonderful Tetris game. All the expected modern conveniences are there, like holding blocks and hard drops. The new Zone mechanic lets you freeze time and stack combos previously unheard of. Anyone can clear four lines at once, but what about six or eight or more?
A leisurely trek through the Journey mode will take you some time. You can also create your own custom marathon modes to suit your mood. See what your online friends are up to on the global map. Compete for top leaderboard spots in Effects mode. Customize your profile with unlockable cosmetics.
It’s All Connected
Tetris Effect is incredible, but we already knew that. We called it an “art installation” two years ago and that still holds true. What we didn’t know was how well developer Enhance could translate the genius of the solitary vision quest into a true multiplayer setting. Fortunately, Tetris Effect: Connected proves we never should’ve doubted Miz. Whether you play locally or online, Tetris Effect: Connected’s three multiplayer modes provide unique takes on Tetris that should satisfy the whole range of puzzle game fans.
Zone Battles take the classic 1v1 competitive multiplayer Tetris format, in which clearing lines sends garbage blocks to your opponent and adds the new Zone mechanics. That simple addition changes strategies dramatically, as a well-timed Zone move can blast through an opponent’s attack and send a wave of garbage back at them. The thrilling swings between offense and defense stand in stark contrast to the otherwise extremely chill single-player game.
For a more traditional tournament experience, Classic Score Attack strips out every bit of modern convenience for pure, old-school Tetris, apparently balanced with help from grandmasters. For those who deeply care about improving their rank, about playing against the best of the best, this is the mode for you.
But in my opinion, the multiplayer mode that best embodies Tetris Effect’s beautiful ethos is the cooperative Connect mode. Here, three players fighting against an AI (or human) boss. Initially, everyone plays on their own individual, separate fields. However, do well enough and the three boards combine, allowing the entire team to freely work together to clear massive lines.
This is a brilliant, mind-blowing, soul-stirring approach to cooperative Tetris, an idea I think I saw at a student games festival years ago. You feel truly connected with your team on a wordless, metaphysical level as the music swells and the boss takes massive damage from your unified attacks. When my teammates died, the pressure to avenge them drove me to play Tetris like never before. I adore this mode. The only multiplayer Tetris variant that comes close to its quality is Tetris 99 battle royale on Nintendo Switch, my actual game of the year in 2019.
Tetris Effect: Connected is optimized for Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. Although I played on the weaker Series S, the game still looked absolutely stunning on my 4K TV. Performance was perfect, at 60fps. An entire rainbow of neon colors pulsed against inky black backdrops.
The eclectic EDM soundtrack vibrated throughout my subconscious. I could listen to the main track, Connected (Yours Forever) by Hydelic, literally forever. Even without the gameplay, this would be a worthwhile interactive screensaver, which is basically what the Theater Mode is. My fiancée, who thinks most modern games are pretty ugly, couldn’t resist the interstellar art style.
If you find the flashing visuals too overwhelming, you can adjust and tone down various graphical settings. I prefer the option that gives each shape of tetrimino its own distinct color.
Tetris Effect: Connected uses its time-tested puzzle gameplay to offer a vision of a global unified digital future. Not only is this Editors’ Choice game the perfect antidote to glum and depressing cyberpunk games, it’s the perfect antidote to the glum and depressing cyberpunk year that is 2020. Whether you play it alone or now with others, Tetris won’t just clear your blocks, it will clear your mind.
Tetris Effect: Connected (for Xbox) Specs
|Product Games Genre||Board/Puzzle|
|Product Price Type||Direct|
|Product Games ESRB Rating||E for Everybody|
|Product Games Platform||Xbox Series X|