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EGX 2018: Hands-On with TETRIS EFFECT

Tetris Effect is living up to the hype.

I didn’t really have much of an inkling to play much VR whilst at EGX. My experience with it – and having it at home for a while and subsequently selling it due to lack of use, that and at the time it was still worth more or less what I paid for the headset – was great, but I felt like I had done it and seen everything it had to offer me. The first year or so of PSVR just wasn’t strong enough for me to keep it around. Nothing really made it an essential purchase.

Could Tetris change that? Tetris? Of all things? Well yes, I want my PSVR back.

First of all, I’m just going to say this now; Tetris Effect was my favourite game I played at EGX 2018. Yes, I know that sounds ridiculous. How on earth, in a enormous hall with the most wonderful creative endeavours on show in every available corner can a bloody Tetris game be the best thing? Well, it’s simple. It’s really, really bloody good.

After awaiting my turn in the PlayStation VR area of the hall, I was excited to finally get my hands on this. The initial trailer blew my mind, with the promise of a brand new take on the oldest of gaming experiences had my intrigued (am I showing my age here?). The trailer, along with *that* song burying itself in my consciousness at every moment had my hype levels at damn near catatonic. So sitting down with the game was an experience that perhaps no matter what I was going to enjoy. By just *how* much though, was the real surprise.

Is it the VR aspect which adds to the experience? Most definitely. As you’re simply just playing Tetris the area around the wall is full of colour and light that surrounds you, exploding into what looked and felt like constellations rushing you but never getting in the way of what you need to actually keep your eyes on. It’s almost calming, in a way that the music works as a way to relax you during the more tense moments as the wall gets tougher to find spaces in. At no point did I ever feel overwhelmed, which for a Tetris game is a huge achievement. I never felt stressed or worried that I wasn’t going to make a line, the surrounding visuals and the music (and that song) created an almost peaceful environment to just do the best you could. It’s so uncompromisingly mellow, with neat little touches throughout. Each Tetrimino being moved and twisted had its own little sound effect, each a different key. Securing a five-line Tetris causes the screen to go bonkers with explosions and fireworks flying towards you, over and under your line of sight. It’s quite something. It’s somehow made Tetris feel new again.

The ‘Zone’ mode was something the PlayStation reps were keen to push during my playthrough. In this you can stop time and stop the Tetriminos falling, allowing you time to fix a mistake or knock out some lines before jumping back into the normal mode. It’s a neat addition which again adds to the feeling that this game doesn’t want to challenge you, but rather share an experience and in VR, become part of it.

There was always a concern that the screenshots made it look like everything going on in the background would become a hindrance to the focus needed to successfully beat Tetris. Fortunately you just don’t notice it, as ever it’s just as easy to keep your eye on your Tetris wall as it ever was, and you’re not going to be distracted by the rather gorgeous visuals that surround it. It’s all connected, as the song says.

I’m so glad I’ve finally sat down with Tetris Effect, it was everything I wanted it to be and more and I can’t wait to get my hands on the full game. It may have just convinced me to jump back into VR again.

As someone who felt like they had seen everything it had to offer, I think that’s some praise.

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