“Spoons” represent how energy-intensive a game is based on my experience. It does not reflect my personal opinion about the game or its quality. You can read more about my “spoons” and other ratings considerations here.
I recorded a narration of this article for your convenience, which you can find at the bottom of this page.
When I finally hit the “buy” button, my initial thought was “Did I really just drop $30 on a Tetris reboot?” I’ll admit I fully expected to have buyer’s remorse, but when I put on my VR headset and launched the game, I was blown away.
Tetris Effect is an artfully crafted audio-visual experience with the classic game “Tetris” as its core. In Tetris Effect, you are taken on a journey of sound and immersive animated environments while you puzzle out the best way to fit the falling shapes called “Tetriminos” into one another to fill as many spaces on the grid as possible in order to completely fill lines horizontally, thus causing the filled lines to disappear and awarding you with points for your clever success! Clear four lines simultaneously to achieve a “Tetris” for an extra bonus!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m sure you’re familiar with the original Tetris. It’s one of the most popular games in existence, and for good reason! It’s a masterpiece. An absolutely perfect creation. Tetris Effect takes this masterpiece, and by some miracle of ingenuity and artistry, makes it better. Paired with a beautiful original soundtrack by the band Hydelic, the game actually shifts and flows along with the rhythm and mood of each song, and vice-versa. As you clear lines and rack up points, the music shifts and the environment also changes in beautiful, sometimes subtle, sometimes breathtakingly drastic ways, increasing or decreasing in speed and intensity as you play. Even the controllers pulse along with the music to add another level of immersion.
As you play, you enter what’s known as a “state of flow”. Wikipedia defines “Flow” as a state of mind in which you are fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of an activity. In essence, flow is characterized by the complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting transformation in one’s sense of time. The main campaign, “Journey Mode” stitches each level together in a progression which does not disrupt your flow state, allowing you to keep up your enhanced senses and reaction time as you continue to play.
Tetris Effect developer Tetsuya Mizuguchi shared during Facebook Connect 2020 that he specifically wanted to induce a state of flow when playing Tetris Effect, and this was a major goal in the game’s creation. I can tell you from my own experience that he was VERY successful in inducing this state. After only a short time playing, I find myself easily drifting into the flow state, and before I know it, an hour has passed! It’s a wise idea to set an alarm before settling in for a Tetris Effect session for this very reason.
Being in that state of flow has similar effects as meditation on my mood, and is so refreshing at times that I considered giving this game a zero spoons rating, but considering the mental energy required to solve the often fast-paced puzzle, I decided to settle on a rating of one spoon just to be fair.
Aside from the main campaign, there are numerous minigames and alternate game modes available under the “Effect Modes” menu category, all of which have unique goals and challenges for the player to complete.
Like I said earlier in the article, I considered giving this game a cost of zero spoons due to the refreshing effect the state of flow it induces occasionally has on me. This game does take some mental stamina to play, however, so it wouldn’t have been entirely accurate if I didn’t give it at least one spoon. Some of the more difficult levels can be pretty taxing mentally, but the gameplay itself requites only finger movement and you can play while seated, so it’s not physically demanding in the slightest. The main campaign, “Journey Mode”, has many different difficulty options to choose from, from Practice Mode, which is as easy as it gets, to Expert mode, which I am currently busting my Tetriminos to complete!
When playing Journey Mode, you can exit the game at any time between levels and your progression will be saved, so there is no risk of having to spend spoons you don’t have just to push yourself through to the next available save point (a common issue I’ve experienced in many other video games). Tetris Effect is a spoonie’s dream come true. I frequently strap myself in to play when I’m having a flare-up, because it helps time pass by more quickly, and the state of flow is an excellent escape from my symptomatic body.
Tetris Effect can be played while seated, but it’s not really possible to play while leaning far back or lying down. The game requires tracking to be on, so the environment around you is always in the same fixed position (if you hold down the oculus button to reposition, it only adjusts the horizontal direction in which you are facing, not the vertical angle). I think the developers could disable tracking and allow the game to be played while laying down fairly easily, but that option is currently not available. There are plenty of options to customize controls, so it’s technically possible to play one-handed, but you’ll have to sacrifice some less important camera controls and menu buttons in order to do this, so some folks might find it inadequate for their needs. Because of these minor shortcomings, I give Tetris Effect an accessibility rating of three out of five stars.
Additional notes: I have visual impairments caused by Optic Nerve Hypoplasia, so my FOV is limited way more than most people. Occasionally, I find it difficult to focus on the falling Tetriminos while also being able to look at the area that shows which shape is coming next. Despite this difficulty, I have still been able to get some pretty impressive scores, if I do say so myself. I want to stress that this is NOT a fault of the game at all, but I thought it would be illuminating to share how my own personal vision issues have impacted my gameplay in case anyone reading this article has similar issues.
This review is for Tetris Effect, not Tetris Effect: Connected, which just launched for consoles and will be available as a free update for all Oculus users who own Tetris Effect in 2021. I will update this review once the update launches and I get the chance to play it. In Effect Mode, you can see when other people are also playing, and while there is no way to directly communicate with one another, I feel like there is a comforting sense of community when I see their avatars orbiting the globe alongside my own. Furthermore, the game developers host something called the “Weekend Ritual” every Saturday where anyone who plays the specified event levels in Effect Mode during the ritual contributes to a global score to reach a goal that unlocks a rare avatar for all participants. This definitely contributes to a shared sense of community. There are also many different leaderboards within Tetris Effect that encourage competition between players. The developers of the game, Enhance, also keep an active social media presence where they are pretty good about responding to and encouraging people who post about their games.
The developers obviously put a lot of effort into making sure there are hours and hours of the main campaign to complete over the course of multiple difficulty levels. Beyond the main campaign, there are many challenging mini-games in the Effect Modes category, and the leaderboards also encourage players to return and compete for the best scores. The “Weekend Ritual” also appears in the Oculus Events menu each week, which reminds me to come back to the game each weekend to help the community reach its goal. There are also many achievements that you can unlock while playing. All of these features combined has definitely earned Tetris Effect a 5 star replayability rating.
I would give this infinite stars if I could. This game is BEAUTIFUL. The game, music, controller vibration effects, and constantly shifting environments combine to draw you in and send you into a state of flow that passes time in a truly incredible way. I’ve joked that Tetris Effect is actually a time machine, because it is so immersive that it’s easy to lose track of time and suddenly realize an hour has passed. I really can not stress enough how magical this game’s level of immersion is. Excellent work, dev team!