Tetris Effect Connected Review — It’s Super Effective!
Tetris Effect Connected innovates further on 2018's mesmerizing, beautiful and addictive iteration of the Tetris formula, introducing a stable of tried and true multiplayer offerings, as well as a delightful new mode.
One thing about getting COVID-19 that people don’t often talk about (for understandable reasons, there’s a lot more newsworthy stuff about it happening at any given moment) is how it affects your mind. For about ten days, I’ve been listless; lacking in any kind of energy and totally without the ability to focus or care about much of anything. Tetris Effect Connected brought me out of that funk in a way that little else can.
I’ve known Tetris longer than I’ve known most of my closest friends. Dropping tetrominoes is like riding a bike; it’s more familiar to me than anything else in video games. The experience and loop at the core of Tetris is so undeniably perfect, simple, and addictive, but also second nature to me that playing it has become a meditative experience over the years. I’ve experienced the Tetris Effect, the phenomenon where you see Tetris blocks falling in front of you involuntarily or in your dreams after longer playtime countless times. In some ways, I use that invasion into my imagination as a litmus test for other games I really enjoy. On a rare occasion, things in real life will bring me back to games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild like when I’m on a high-up place and can envision what it would feel like to use Link’s paraglider instead to get back to the ground rather than the stairs.
Tetris Effect Connected brought me a new experience of what the Tetris Effect could be. That’s thanks to its gorgeous visuals and beautiful sound design and, partially, to the fact that I never really played Tetris in multiplayer until recently Tetris 99 and Puyo Puyo Tetris. I don’t think Tetris Effect would have beaten out Tetris 99, my game of the year from 2019, but Tetris Effect Connected certainly gives it a run for its money for the same reason that the original gave challenged it as my favorite iteration of Tetris.
Coming from Lumines director Tetsuya Mizuguchi, this updated version of Tetris Effect brings a lot to the table. The original Tetris Effect boasted an innovation on Tetris that made it into a transcendent experience in a lot of ways. The game takes an already calming core loop to the next level. Not only has Tetris never looked better, but pairing the visually minimalistic core aesthetic of Tetris with the psychedelic, ethereal, and stunning backdrops found in both Tetris Effect games was a masterstroke.
The game’s soundtrack, which is as sonically diverse as it is beautiful, takes that already peanut-butter-and-chocolate-level combination to new heights. Even the incredible rumble integration contributed to this evolutionarily impactful interaction of Tetris. Much like Lumines Remastered on Switch’s rumble integration, the pulsating in rhythm with the entrancing soundtrack and sound design drew from my focus-less reverie and into that Tetris flow that I love so much.
Although I found myself blazing through all the content offered in the original pretty quickly, I savored every minute of it and am still eager to jump back in and clear the game’s stunning Journey Mode on other difficulties. The Journey Mode, which was in the original, is undeniably the game’s core experience. It’s a Tetris journey that transports you to the calm depths of the ocean, the lively streets of a big city, and the surface of the moon with each level as beautiful and engaging as the last. Every element of the game brings a level of emotional resonance to Tetris that was never there before.
The other part of the game that was already included in 2018’s Tetris Effect is the Effect Modes, which offer a few different, more arcade-style challenges, as well as some Tetris staples. While most of the additional modes aren’t anything terribly new or interesting from old Tetris games, like the Marathon, Ultra or Sprint modes, mini-game-like offerings like All Clear, Combo, and more bring new spins to the franchise that feel more suited for shorter bursts of play, rather than the more drawn-out, deliberate pace of the Journey Mode. It even offers a few playlists for people wanting shorter bursts of the journey mode that focus on specific themes and aesthetics.
The icing on the cake, however, is Connected’s multiplayer, which offers just about all of Tetris‘s greatest multiplayer hits, aside from the battle royale-inspired modes from Tetris 99. This along with the all-new Connected Battle, which serves as a worthy inspiration for this new version’s title, is a fantastic evolution of the multiplayer Tetris formula. Options that hearken back to the original Tetris, as well as battle modes that will look familiar to anyone who’s played any recent iterations of the classic puzzler are the backbone of this multiplayer experience, serving up a fun and engaging option for players looking for a little competition.
The Connected Battle is the real reason for any Tetris fan to check out the game’s multiplayer. It’s a new evolution to multiplayer Tetris that’s as innovative as something like Tetris 99, but in a way that’s so perfectly tailored to what Tetris Effect is. If Tetris 99 applied the battle royale genre to Tetris, Connected Battle applies the loop of a raid in something like Destiny. The player teams up with up to two other players (the remaining slots are filled in by AI players) to fight a series of bosses, each with their own unique effects and challenges that make the experience more challenging.
The twist is that every once in a while, when enough lines are cleared, all three players’ Wells are combined to make one giant Tetris Well, where the three players are tasked with clearing as many lines as possible in a mad-dash to send garbage into the boss’s Well. When connected, a special version of the song playing over the match plays as players take turns dropping Tetrominoes to defeat the Zodiac Sign-inspired bosses.
The idea that players face off against multiple bosses is okay for some of the lower difficulties, making it so that each match has a good length to it, but in some later difficulties, Connected takes way too long. An option for players to opt to take on bosses one-at-a-time would have really helped elevate Connected to the high bar that Tetris 99 set. Shorter play sessions would be even more important if I was able to find a ranked match for Connected, which, after multiple attempts, each resulting in a ten or more minute wait, I was unable to do. It seems like a missed opportunity for Tetris Effect Connected to take a note from fighting games and allow players to play other single-player modes while waiting to find matches.
Luckily, I was able to play the mode both locally with my roommates and with some friends online. Otherwise, I’ve only tried the Zone Battle mode with a stranger in a ranked game, and even that took far longer to find an opponent than I would’ve liked. It’s really a shame that more people aren’t playing this because all of the competitive modes are a delight.
I’m not sure if I’m comfortable saying that it’s my game of the year, but it’s easily the shining star of the Xbox Series S|X launch to me. Tetris Effect Connected brings multiple creative, beautiful, and mesmerizing spins to the Tetris formula that anyone with Game Pass owes it to themself to play and try out, especially those who missed the original. Sweetened by its hypnotic, up-tempo soundtrack and pseudo-psychedelic visuals, Tetris has never felt better than in Tetris Effect. Now with a robust multiplayer offering, Tetris Effect Connected allows it to rival Tetris 99 for the spot of my favorite entry in the franchise.