Is it just me or is it hard to believe that Tetris is really that good in VR? I’ve read countless previews of Enhance’s Tetris Effect that are glowing with positivity (including our own) and all I can think is ‘how can this possibly be as good as everyone is saying it is?’
Well, now I’ve played it and, believe me, it’s as good as everyone is saying it is.
Within 10 minutes, Tetris Effect utterly absorbed me in its lucid, vibrant take on the block-building legend. I managed to completely lose myself in the game’s arresting soundtrack and stunning visuals in a way that I’ve rarely done in VR. It was one of the most immediately captivating things I’ve seen since, fittingly, Rez Infinite.
In many ways, Enhance’s latest game builds upon what it achieved with Infinite. It puts that same LSD-infused atmosphere front and center but trades the combat — something that was arguably at odds with the game’s otherwise relaxing gameplay — for the much more manageable world of falling blocks. As you try to build your towers, neon-soaked eye candy explodes into view like a bombastic celebration of all that’s good in the world; star-assembled stingrays circle around the grid and vivid colors stretch your pupils as far as they’ll go, all while an engrossing soundtrack seems to make your entire body pulsate. It’s like wearing Enhance’s famed Synesthesia suit without actually putting it on.
Early levels feel like they capture the sensation of being underwater better than many VR games in which you are, in fact, underwater. There’s that sort of muffled quality to it that pours into your ears as blocks collide together. It’s a deliberate and methodical approach to slowing down the more competitive aspect of the game in favor of experience first and foremost, which is exactly what VR should be about. Even watching back YouTube videos as I write is causing me to lose long stretches of time entranced in its beauty. It is, quite simply, an utter treat.
But, crucially, there’s a game here too. There are over 30 levels to Tetris Effect, accommodating all levels of skill, and it’s just as captivating as it’s ever been. The new Zone mechanic, which stops time for a few seconds, adds a new layer (pun intended) to the gameplay, allowing you to stack up blocks and then strike while the iron is hot, tallying up points in combinations to score higher than you ever have in a Tetris game before.
I’ve seen plenty of music visualizers for VR along with guided meditation apps and soothing locations to visit. They’re all wonderful experiments, although I often find myself struggling to find much reason to visit for more than a few minutes at a time. Tetris Effect promises to break that cycle but rooting a tried and true puzzle game in the center of its fantastical atmosphere. It’s not hard to imagine many of us tearing through the game’s main mode when it hits before making the endless mode a staple in your weekly gaming diet.
Tetris Effect looks like it’s going to be the perfect winter warmer; a wholesome, hypnotic spectacle of a VR game that will draw you in with its surreal presentation and keep the hooks of its addictive foundation planted in you for hours on end. And, believe me, I’m just as surprised as you that I’m saying this about Tetris in 2018 inside VR. You’ll just have to see it for yourself.
Tetris Effect arrives on PS4 on November 9th with optional PSVR support. I can’t wait to devour it.