- Of all the blockbuster spectacles and indie darlings I played in 2018, one unexpected game was the best by far: “Tetris Effect.”
- More than just a modern reimagining of a classic game, “Tetris Effect” is a breath of fresh air for the “Tetris” franchise.
- Despite the age of the source of material, “Tetris Effect” is the best game I played in 2018 – a year that featured blockbusters like “God of War,” “Spider-Man,” and “Red Dead Redemption 2.”
There’s a simple reason for that: “Tetris Effect” is the best game I played in 2018.
“Tetris Effect” takes a foundational game (“Tetris”), executes it perfectly, and crucially evolves the concept of what a “Tetris” game can be. It’s one of the only games I played in 2018 that I’ll continue playing into 2019 (and likely beyond).
Here’s what makes it so incredibly good:
“Tetris” is timeless.
I first played “Tetris” on the Nintendo Game Boy around 1989. I still have the Game Boy and the cartridge (I’ve been a dork going on three decades now), largely due to how formative the game was on my childhood. It’s my all-time favourite game.
Admittedly, in case it weren’t already clear enough, I did not need to be “sold” on the idea of a new “Tetris” game. But even I wondered what would make such an old game feel new again – over 30 years after Alexey Pajitnov coded the game in the Soviet Union.
It turns out that, in 2018, “Tetris” is still as creative and brilliant as it was on the original Game Boy.
The foundation of “Tetris Effect” is still focused on creating/clearing lines from the play field while new blocks are randomly generated from the top. There is no major shift or evolution in this respect – “Tetris Effect” is, at its core, a “Tetris” game.
“Tetris Effect” is “Tetris” at its finest.
Playing “Tetris Effect” with the PlayStation 4 controller is intuitive, and controls are precise. The game feels sharp and fast, like it should.
That might sound basic, but it’s absolutely crucial for any great “Tetris” game to nail control.
One of the biggest issues with “Tetris” in the modern era is the clash between its mainstream appeal and its relative unplayability on touch-based devices (like smartphones). Simply put: “Tetris” requires butttons, but most people play games on smartphones (which don’t have buttons).
To that end, the PlayStation 4 is a more than capable machine for “Tetris Effect.” The d-pad on the DualShock 4 gamepad is excellent at incremental, precise movement. If you fail, there’s no confusion over who’s at fault – it certainly wasn’t the controls.
The game runs at a steady clip, and never slowed down nor skipped a beat even at its most hectic – and “Tetris Effect” gets real hectic.
The “Tetris” effect is real.
The game’s title sounds like a psychological phenomenon – and it is, in fact, exactly that, where players start “seeing” the patterns of “Tetris” in the world or in their mind as they drift off to sleep. “Tetris Effect,” the game, takes that and twists it back on itself.
During gameplay, a synaesthetic journey takes place in the background. With each twist of the “Tetris” block (“tetronimo”) and lateral movement, the game’s music responds in turn. While this auditory collaboration occurs, the game’s background visuals take players on a journey through space, or the oceans, or across a vast desert.
It’s surreal, and beautiful, and intense – and it’s much more than a parlor trick.
Beyond offering an additional audio/visual component, these synaesthetic effects serve to further imprint the game’s seemingly simplistic gameplay into consciousness. It deepens an already flow-like experience.
With a variety of modes, ranging from relaxing to nearly impossible, there’s a lot to do in “Tetris Effect.”
You might think that a “Tetris” game in 2018 would have a hard time justifying a $US40 price tag. “Tetris Effect” does not, and that’s mostly due to its endless replayability. It is, after all, “Tetris.”
More importantly, though, there are a variety of game modes to switch between. Despite the fact that you’re always essentially just playing “Tetris,” the different modes feel distinct and unique.
There’s the main journey mode, for instance, which is a kind of guided “story” mode that progresses through different series of themed stages. Then there are all the “extra” modes, which are experience-based options. These modes aim to create a mood or get you to focus.
Looking to play something a little more relaxed? That’s an option. Want something that will demand your attention? Plenty of choices for that. Maybe you want something a bit more meditative? Sure thing!
“Tetris Effect” often feels more like a daily practice than a game.
In the chaos of the game’s most difficult modes is where my brain finds silent focus, and that’s hard to come by these days. It’s something I really appreciate about “Tetris Effect” – the game uses the meditative focus required for “Tetris” to intentionally achieve meditative focus in players.
It’s not quite the same, but here’s a similar example: As I type these words, I don’t think about where I place each finger – I just type. My hands are translating what my brain is thinking faster than I can think about each action.
When “Tetris Effect” is at its best, which is often, it captures my full attention. It’s a blessed respite from the modern world that I’m thankful for on a deeper level than the usual video game. “Tetris Effect” helps me relax, outright.
It’s few and far between that games have such a tangible emotional impact on me, but, unbelievably, “Tetris Effect” is the game this year that had the biggest emotional impact of all.
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