Review: Tetris Effect: Connected (Switch)

A mesmerizing take on Tetris from the mind behind Meteos and Lumines awaits.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 11/11/2021 00:24 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Zone mechanic is versatile as both a way to rack up points and avoid certain failure; visuals are sublime and mesh perfectly with the lively, energizing soundtrack; lots of content to experience; multiplayer is fun and offers a unique challenge
Poison Mushroom for...
The game eventually ends; not quite as pretty on Switch, but the tradeoff is portability

Tetris is largely the same game that it was when it came to NES back in 1989. Tetriminoes, the game’s iconic falling blocks, pour down from the top of the playing field. The player rotates and directs the blocks as they fall, trying to arrange them into uninterrupted rows so as to “clear” them away. The rate at which the Tetriminoes fall increases with each level that the player clears. Erase lines, rack up points, rinse, and repeat.

It’s a dependable game loop that has enthralled many a player for decades, but has also proved to be surprisingly resilient to modifications and changes. Tetris 99 in recent years has shown that the battle royale formula and Nintendo-themed playing fields are a perfect fit for the series’ signature gameplay. Now, Tetris Effect: Connected has demonstrated that Tetris is versatile enough to be a vehicle for artistic expression.

Developer Tetsuya Mizuguchi helped to create Tetris Effect: Connected. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because he helped helm music/puzzle games Meteos on Nintendo DS and Lumines for Sony’s PlayStation Portable. Both of those games dealt with falling blocks much like Tetris, but at their core the experiences were also just as much about the music playing in the background. This is especially true of Lumines, from which Tetris Effect: Connected takes a lot of inspiration.

Here, the familiar Tetris formula plays out, but a number of liberties have been taken to transform the experience into a hybrid of music, artistry, and clearing lines. Like Lumines, every action in Tetris Effect: Connected impacts the music. No musical composition knowledge or playing ability is required. Instead of strings and keys, music is produced by rotating Tetriminoes and clearing away lines. Small tones and chimes are emitted by each action, which act in harmony with the music tracks that comprise the score.

The result is a slightly different variation of each tune every time the game is played. While that alone is interesting, the music is complimented by gorgeously animated backgrounds. Jungles, oceans, fire, ice, and more are all lavishly presented, and the Tetriminoes can be skinned to match accordingly. I mentioned Tetris on NES earlier and, ironically, it hasn’t been since that game that I’ve seen such a glorious color palette for the myriad blocks. Although it’s possible to play with the standardized color palette that has become a fixture of the series, I was more than happy to shut it off and bask in the incredible aesthetic of each stage.

Sprays of stars in the sky, chittering dolphins, and bass-laden beats swirl together into a symphony of color, sound, and light that has to be seen in motion to truly be appreciated. Every one of the game’s 30-plus stages is beautiful to behold. Half the fun is seeing what new theme will pop up next. While over 30 stages sounds like a lot of content to get through (and it is), by the end I imagine many reading this will be like me and desperate for more.

One other thing that sets Tetris Effect: Connected apart from other Tetris games is its Zone feature. As Tetriminoes are cleared away, a gauge fills up. Activate the Zone mechanic and time screeches to a halt. During this period, players must try to clear as many lines as possible for bonus points. It can alternatively be used as a way to get out of tight, potentially game ending situations. I personally don’t get on all that well with the various gimmicks that have been bolted onto Tetris games throughout the years, but like Tetris 99’s competitive spirit, the Zone mechanics feels like a natural match for the series.

Tetris Effect: Connected’s single player mode features clusters of stages grouped together that must be beaten in a single go. As the player progresses, new clusters open up, and by the end there’s even the option to take on all of the stages at once in a gauntlet. Other modes, meanwhile, offer altogether different experiences. Take on themed sets of stages, unique challenges, and even play with others. One multiplayer mode offers up to four total players to unite their playing fields into one and clear lines simultaneously.

For those who might now know, Tetris Effect: Connected is available on Xbox and PlayStation consoles and, arguably, looks better on those platforms. However, that’s a common observation about any multiplatform Switch release—one that is by no means an indictment, I might add. Indeed, Although Tetris Effect: Connected does get a bit of a visual downgrade in comparison to other versions, it’s nonetheless stunning on Nintendo’s hardware. What’s more, this is the only version that can be played both on a TV screen and while sitting on a BART train. Played in Handheld Mode, Tetris Effect: Connected is the perfect companion on the go. Which is fitting considering Tetris really made its name here in the West when it released alongside Game Boy. Things have come full circle, it would seem.

Tetris Effect: Connected came out as an eShop exclusive. I downloaded it at midnight the night it launched and played until about six in the morning. It was so mesmerizing and fun that I couldn’t stop playing it until I’d seen and heard every stage it had to offer. That might make it sound like the game is on the short side, but assuming most players take their time with the campaign, I can see it stretching out to six or seven hours to complete. Throw in the various modes and multiplayer, and Tetris Effect: Connected will keep players coming back to it for a very long time. I can’t recommend it enough—it’s a must-have for Switch owners.

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