Connecting with Tetris Effect: Connected
March 24th, 2022
Platform Played On: Playstation 4 and Playstation 5
“The Tetris effect occurs when people devote so much time and attention to an activity that it begins to pattern their thoughts, mental images, and dreams.”
As I am writing this review I have the Tetris Effect: Connected soundtrack playing and it’s comforting me with every keystroke I type. Although I would love for you to listen to it, I feel it would be best experienced with the gameplay of Tetris Effect: Connected first, but if you don’t plan on playing I do encourage you to listen to the soundtrack on one of your favorite streaming services. I will get more into the music a bit later, but for right now, I invite you to be my travel buddy through my history with Tetris. If you are looking for a quick review of the game then you may want to scroll down to my TLDR* rating system (A method inspired by a typo, thanks Nick!), or if you’d care to indulge me, read on. Gaming is much more to me than a quick recap, instead I tend to look at it as an interactive adventure that I embarked on or am currently on and a part of my life’s journey as well because I spend a lot of time gaming.
Let’s begin with my personal experiences with Tetris. Around the age of seven I went into the hospital for a week or so due to needing surgery to remove a large amount of kidney stones. Many gifts were given to me when I awoke from the anesthesia, but one stood out the most and would change my gaming experience forever. My Aunt MaryAnn gave me my cousins’ (original) Game Boy as they just received Gameboy Advances of their own and were no longer playing with it. The gift also included the classic magnifying light and speaker attachments and, you guessed it, Tetris. At the time I didn’t realize how meaningful it was, but I knew I loved the green monochrome screen that lit up my face with a smile or intense focus whenever I turned it on. We did have an NES at home, but that was shared with my brothers. This gift was the first gaming system that I could call my own. I knew that batteries were a rare commodity in a house of six children so I would make sure to savor the time I would play it and try to leave it more for car rides, though I snuck in a few games when I wasn’t reading a book or playing with legos. I remember being in the backseat of the car with this contraption entranced by the music and the gameplay. Such a simple concept, but the experience was pivotal.
I would go on to playing many versions of Tetris on different platforms. Downloading it from an app store on my first smart phone; a quick game on Facebook against coworkers, friends, and strangers during breaks at work; asking to play my friend’s Nintendo Switch to play a Battle Royale game that I felt was made for me, Tetris 99; frantically dodging game bugs at higher levels in Endless Mode on UbiSoft’s Tetris Ultimate (Playstation 4) and achieving the Black Belt after many attempts; and even a few games of Tetris Hell on an unknown website I probably shouldn’t have been on.
As I grew up and the more I played the better I became. I started learning different techniques such as T-Spins and setting up T-Spins; improved on my C-C-C-C-Combo method; trusted my eyesight and instincts and committed to hard drops to help improve my Sprint time; and learned to calculate when certain pieces would be approaching. My mind is one that is overly active. It’s hard for me to stop thinking about all the stresses of my life, others’ lives, the Cicadas in the distance, the car alarms going off, and so on. It’s difficult for me to find something that allows me to keep a direct focus for an extended period of time, but Tetris takes my overthinking and transforms it into problem solving. I understand this isn’t the mindset everyone has while playing and depending on where your mind takes you during the game it will be the deciding factor if it will be the end or if it will be a new beginning. One amazing thing that comes along with Tetris is the challenge to remain calm in a hectic state. Once you accept the realization of knowing eventually this will end, then the panic fades and clarity emerges. What once seemed like a hopeless outcome, turns into an epic battle of survival (cue the intense Tetris music). Twisting and turning the pieces as if it was a game of chess. Knowing that right now your piece won’t clear lines, but you can still adjust it or (in more recent versions of Tetris) you hold it and set up your board to allow another piece to complete the task later on. Some people may never reach this point in the game. A lot of those people tend to either give up when there is still space to maneuver and are able solve the problem at hand or their minds will cloud the path that’s right before them. It can take a lot of patience and practice to be able to get to the point where the overwhelming feelings no longer exist.
Tetris has a lot of lessons it can teach us if we are ready to listen. Yes, it’s a video game, but just like anything in life, for example television or books, you can find meaning from it and learn to implement what you’ve learned into your personal life. The lessons I learned are that mistakes can be corrected. That high scores, fast times, or any other expectation you put on yourself can be extinguished when you focus on the problem and the satisfying feeling of solving a problem. Just like life, we are faced with fast paced puzzles that are thrown at us daily. Utilizing the same strategies of calming oneself by breathing and figuring out a solution, as we do in life or in gaming, we can accomplish most tasks. It may not be how we expected to accomplish them, but being okay with that, is part of it too. I try to carry over some of these learning moments into my life. For example: taking a break and allow my mind to focus on one thing at a time, although difficult to do outside of Tetris, it helps to shed light onto what I need to do during more complicated scenarios. Figuring out different methods of fixing a problem is essential. Tetris allows you to make mistakes and it’s on you to figure out how you want to handle these mistakes. I will always be grateful to the game, not only because it has helped me, but it has opened my world up too.
I was more of a solo player when it comes to puzzle games, but Tetris has implemented different modes throughout the years that allowed not only competition but cooperation. It has allowed me to show others my skills through friendly battles on previous Sunday Funday get togethers; teach others if they were interested in learning; and also work together to complete a goal. It has pushed me out of some of my own limitations I set upon myself. Not only locally with friends of friends, or at a bar downtown, but also to travel to a different state and try to compete. Was I always successful? No, but that’s the beauty of Tetris. You accept that it will end at some point, and winning or losing isn’t the important part of it (at least for me), instead it’s how you solve the problems along the way.
Now we enter the actual review portion of this “article” for the game, Tetris Effect: Connected with you now knowing my own connection to the series. Although you may sense some biases, there are some points to consider that may help you enjoy the game more so than you might have before.
When I heard about Tetris Effect (original release) coming out it looked like a version of the game I always wanted: calm, beautiful, and chaotic all at the same time. I wasn’t sure if it would live up to my expectations, but I knew I needed to give it a try.
The day I got it, I decided to play it for the first time with the VR set on to fully immerse myself. I’ve never thought of Tetris as being a VR style game, until I saw it first hand. I put the headset on and the earplugs in then I heard the music start playing. It wasn’t the song I remembered hearing on repeat throughout the years, but something new. Something that touched my heart. I was overwhelmed visually and emotionally. Playing the game was second to the experience of what the creators graciously provided their players and spectators. I rarely am distracted while playing Tetris as mentioned previously and it’s easy for me to zone out. However, experiencing this new version of the game took me to a different level. It was like when I first saw Harry Potter in the theater after reading the books. My brain went back to how I saw Tetris as a child. Something new, exciting, and magical. I actually teared up underneath the VR headset. After playing for a bit, I removed my headset and found myself in awe. I told my significant other, that I didn’t know how I would be able to play Tetris with everything that was going on, because I just wanted to watch the background and allow my brain to swim in the music. I allowed myself to enjoy the beautiful scenery and movement the creators provided to us and started to understand that the game wasn’t just about the classic game of Tetris, but the new world that Tetris exists in.
I got through the feeling of being unable to focus by basically putting the headset down and playing without VR. I was able to find my rhythm again, even though certain levels would steer my eyes away from the pieces and grab ahold of the beautiful setting. I figured out that the more I played the more they became part of the game for me. It may take more patience and consistency for others to play this game on certain modes, such as the ones with interactive backgrounds, but if you view it as part of the experience, and not just a game, then you won’t be disappointed. If you are prone to seizures, or get headaches because of games similar to this, then I would recommend staying clear of this game. Possibly for those who get overwhelmed with multiple things going on at once, you may better enjoy this game as a spectator (which they have recently implemented this in Multiplayer mode or you can watch a stream).
Tetris has been recreated many times throughout the years, and something that all Tetris players remember, casual to dedicated, is the music that we listened to time and time again. (Dun! Dun dun dun, dun dun dun, dun dun dun, dun dun.. dun… dun, dun. Dun. Dun. Dun dun… Did I do that right?) The tempo that continued to match the falling speed of the pieces as you moved through the levels. There was a love/hate relationship with those repetitive notes that at first kept us in rhythm with the game just to become the notes that would add pressure by the end. Tetris Effect: Connected however brings a new soundtrack to us. One with hope, variety, and also adds an element previous Tetris games didn’t have. Your movement of the pieces adjust how the music sounds and also bring more life to the background visuals. The turning of a piece will add a different instrument to the song; the speed that you play will adjust the length of the song parts; and the lines that you clear will create visual changes in the background including fireworks exploding and dolphins jumping out of the water. If you still want to hear the original song, you can find that in the classic mode.
After getting used to the background and music, I felt like I was playing Tetris in a different way. I was able to help with the movement of the game and enhance the music, or at times making the music worse. One level in particular made me hate how fast and often I rotated pieces by screeching at me with a high pitch noise, where I felt punished unlike previous levels where I felt rewarded. I decided to use Journey Mode as a way to meditate. I would stream it on Twitch every day for months to allow others to enjoy it as well with the visuals, the gameplay, and/or the music. I understand others may not be able to play a game with that many distractions, and with that I still felt that the game should be shared and allow those people to see and hear what the game provides outside of gameplay.
There are three different parts of the game that you can participate in: Journey Mode, Effect Modes, and Multiplayer Mode. Each mode is amazing in its own way. There is a leveling system with the highest level being Grand Master for the base part of the game, and a more in-depth ranking system when you join the Multiplayer mode.
Journey Mode is similar to a story mode. It allows you to embark on an adventure through various places in the world and different styles of music to accompany you along the way. You can choose from multiple difficulty levels and go through multiple chapters.
Effect Modes includes many familiar game modes you have seen in the past and a few you may not have played yet. This is still a single player mode. At times an event will occur in which you work alongside other Tetris players to accomplish a goal. If you took part in this event and the community succeeds you’re rewarded with special avatars you can equip and see fly around the world of players who are online.
The most recent mode added is the Multiplayer Mode. That is when the name Tetris Effect changed to Tetris Effect: Connected. This mode includes not only battle mode with classic Tetris style game play (that’s right no holds for you!) and battle modes that we have seen in previous games; but also a co-op game where three people go up against a single player (boss). Players can try and move through the ranking system for each game mode or play casually. Although sadly with a lot of online games that have a niche player base, the higher you rank or even sometimes the timezone you are in, may cause issues with finding fellow people to play with or against. So if you are looking for a consistent competitive Tetris gameplay, this may disappoint you slightly, but if you are a casual competitive Tetris player you will enjoy your time in this mode when you do find players to go against or team up with. Ultimately, patience is key in this mode from my experience when you hit the higher ranks just like most PVP style games.
To conclude, I believe the game’s title says it all. Tetris Effect: Connected is a game that provides multiple sensory effects that will affect you regardless if you like it or not. It also allows you to connect to others around the world be it high score comparisons; working together for a common goal by playing solo; or finding others to play with through multiplayer. It may not be simplistic anymore, but the creators put life into an almost 39 year old game. Something that I feel I can relate to with being almost 39 myself. Making a big change while holding onto its core self. I would highly recommend this game to Tetris lovers who aren’t prone to epileptic seizures. If not to play it, at least to experience it.
TLDR*: Put a Ring on It!
Disclaimer: I apologize if the timing for this review may come across as inconsiderate, but my intentions for reviewing this game is solely due to the idea of reviewing my favorite game series to make way for my future game reviews. I want it to be known that there is no underlying implications for this review as the country’s origin never played a factor in my decision to play this game.
*TLDR Rating Section:
Put a Ring on It! – Buy the game at full price as it is worth every penny with few flaws. It’s the game you deserve and although it may not be perfect neither are you.
It’s Complicated – It’s good but may not be something you feel is worth paying the full price for due to bugs, limited gameplay, lack of deployability or other games out may be prioritized more. Wait for it to be on sale. Wait for a sale and see if you want to commit.
Fling – Wait for it to be free on Playstation Plus, gifted, etc. – May still be enjoyable but worth waiting to see if you can get it for free. You may occasionally enjoy what was created, but not worth putting money into right now.
Dump It – It’s bad with no potential. Lack of story; too many bugs with no foreseeable fixes; and/or no entertainment value found. You deserve better!