Do we need another Tetris iteration? The answer is a resounding, “YES!” To be perfectly blunt, I didn’t think that we did, but was pleasantly surprised when I got sucked into playing Tetris Effect: Connected for hours before I realized that I was thoroughly addicted. This isn’t your run of the mill Tetris game. In fact, this is technically a re-release or an enhancement to Tetris Effect, which came out for the PlayStation 4 in 2018 and Windows in 2019. This 2020 version, titled Tetris Effect: Connected, is available for Windows, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.
Truthfully, I had not played the original Tetris Effect before, so this is an entirely new game for me. You may find things throughout that are not new, if you’ve played the original 2018 version. Tetris Effect: Connected has 3 main modes: Journey Mode, Effects Modes, and Multiplayer. I will break down and review each to make this a much easier read.
Journey Mode is in a nutshell a “Story mode” or campaign. In this mode, players play through a series of levels to get to the last board. Depending on the difficulty you select, each difficulty has a specific line goal to beat the level; Beginner – 30, Normal – 36, Expert – 48. The exception is that the final level has a 90-line goal to complete on all difficulties. Throughout each leg of the journey, the levels get faster but, not in the same ways as a normal Tetris game. In Tetris Effect: Connected, the speed seems to change randomly. For example, in Area 4 of Journey, when I thought it was all over the next level was at Level 1 speed for a little bit, util it ratcheted back up to Level 8 speed. Hair raising and unnerving indeed!
Journey mode also features the all-new “Zone effect” which saved my ass a few times. Once your “Zone Meter” is filled, the player hits LT or RT, which enters the player into the zone where Tetriminos (that’s what Tetris blocks are called!) stop falling, and all completed lines go to the bottom of the playfield. Your time “in the zone” ends when the Zone meter empties out, or a Tetrimino reaches the top of the playfield. At the end of the player receives a special bonus for all the Lines completed.
WTF!? I mean that in a good and bad way. There is so much going on in Effect Modes that I don’t even know where to begin. Under normal circumstances, there are various games with different rulesets. Here are a few examples of what’s in Effect Modes:
- Ultra – Obtain the best score within three minutes
- Sprint – Clear 40 lines as fast as you can
- Master – Insanely fast Tetris. (Yes, it truly is fast. What exactly is speed level M1?)
- Mystery – Random effects throughout the level. (My personal favorite and I highly recommend it)
- Various Themed Playlist options with very relaxing music.
These modes and others will keep you coming back for more as they offer something different from the standard Tetris game. But wait, there’s more!
Tetris Effect: Connected also has a “Weekly Ritual” which is a community event. Complete any mode with an “Event” marker to earn an avatar (more on these later) and contribute points to the overall Ritual Goal. If 100% of the community goal is reached, everyone who participates will earn a special rate “Event” – category avatar.
Tetris Multiplayer – Coop Play Included
The newest element to Tetris Effect, multiplayer. Tetris 99 brought us some battle royale style gameplay and Tetris Effect: Connected brings us coop play. There are 4 multiplayer core games. Connected, Zone Battle, Score Attack, and Classic Score Attack. Each of these modes can be played as private matches or local play on the same system. Private matches do offer the ability to tweak the game settings to your liking.
Connected – Tetris coop multiplayer. Here a team of three work together to defeat an A.I. controlled boss. Each of the three players play have their own playfield and attempt to clear as many Lines as possible to fill the Zone meter. Once filled, all three playfields merge together and all three players take turns dropping Tetraminoes to clear Lines that at the end of the merge, get sent to the bottom of the A.I. bosses playfield. Each round has three A.I. bosses that need to be completed and vary in difficulty depending on which difficulty you choose: Easy or Normal. This multiplayer mode is probably the most unique and the most fun. This is a fun mode and is essentially PvM.
*Connected Vs. (Full Moon Only) – 3 Vs 1 Multiplayer, exactly like Connected, except a player is now controlling the boss. This is only available on the weekends for a 24hr period known as the “Full Moon.” No idea why they decided to do this other than to drum up more traffic during the weekends. This too is a very fun mode and is essentially PvP.
Zone Battle – Standard one-on-one battle Tetris with a twist: the time-stopping Zone mechanic. In this mode, any Lines cleared while in the Zone are sent to the other player’s playfield. These can of course be counteracted if the defending player clears as many Lines thus canceling out the attack. Once you get used to that Zone mechanic this mode is really enjoyable. While I am not used to it, I found myself activating it only when I saw the other player doing the same. If one of the players top out, the other has 2 minutes to continue playing to attempt to beat the other player’s score.
Score Attack & Classic Score Attack– Are essentially the same as your standard head-to-head fight to the highest score. The only difference is that the Class Score Attack is barebones like it’s 1984 brethren and doesn’t use the modern-day ruleset, which includes things like the Hold Queue, Hard Drops, and the ability to move the Tetrimino for a short period of time as it’s on the surface. Both are a lot of fun and very challenging and offer different things depending on whether or not you’re looking for a more classic feel. Like Zone Battle, if a player tops out, the other player has the ability to continue playing for 2 minutes in an attempt to beat the other player’s score, if they are behind. At the time of this writing, the 2-minute timer seemed to be broken for Score Attack, which would cause the player who topped out to sit there and wait as the other player finished their game. The only way to prevent this was to shut the game down, which is not ideal.
Let’s talk about matchmaking a little bit. It appears that outside of Friends and Local Matches, the only other Multiplayer option is a Ranked Match, which means everything you do online is being factored into matchmaking. It seems the methodology the developers imployed to make matchmaking work is fairly even. While playing online, there was certainly some difficult challengers that I faced, but nothing that was a run-off. A quick review of the Rankings will quickly show that there are god-like Tetris players out there, but they seem to not get paired up with lower-level folks. This is great, as it will keep the game fun and challenging while not frustrating the hell out of less-skilled players.
Avatars and Graphics
Avatars: This is your in-game representation, which looks like a really dense constellation. As of this writing, there are 84 Avatars to collect and are collected via special events, playing more matches, and completing certain challenges. It’s cool if you’re into that sort of thing. Personally, I didn’t care for this too much despite it showing off your tenure or completion of a special event. I can take it or leave it.
I can’t believe that the most played game on my Xbox Series X right now is Tetris Effect: Connected. You’d think that a game like Tetris would not be known for its graphical prowess. You know why? Because it’s not. It’s blocks, but somehow the developer made this game incredibly beautiful and mesmerizing. I find myself orbiting around the Galaxy and Earth viewing other players Avatars. Most of the playfields in matches can be turned rotated up or down and left or right which creates a unique graphical and gameplay experience.
Conclusion – Tetris Effect: Connected – Masterfully Multiplayer
What can I say? It’s Tetris! Tetris is, and has always been, one of my favorite puzzle-type games and I am pretty sure I have owned a variant of Tetris on every console I’ve owned, along with on my PC and iPhone. Even as a huge fan of Tetris, I scoffed at the idea that this would be an Xbox Series X|S launch title. I am quickly regretting thinking that. Tetris Effect: Connected is no slouch and should definitely be given a fair shot. I’ll warn you though, in my first 30-60 minutes I was overwhelmed and ready to delete it but, after pushing through that initial introduction, I haven’t been able to put the controller down.
Tetris Effect: Connected is currently available for Xbox Series X|S and Windows PC on Xbox Game Pass or as a standalone title for $39.99. An update will be made to existing platforms summer of 2021.
Additional Gameplay Footage Below:
Monstars Inc., Resonair, Stage Games