Tetris Effect Connected gives us some great new ways to play Tetris

After nine months of exclusivity to Microsoft, Tetris Effect’s “Connected” update, which brings a variety of new modes to the excellent puzzler, is now available for all platforms — including PS4, Xbox, Nintendo Switch and PC. And they all have cross-platform play! Wa, and indeed, hoo.

Owners of the original 2018 PS4 release of Tetris Effect will be pleased to hear that the Tetris Effect Connected content is available as a free update — there’s no need to buy any DLC or purchase a new copy of the game in order to enjoy it. You will, of course, need a PlayStation Plus account to take advantage of the multiplayer features, however.

Tetris Effect Connected

For the unfamiliar, Tetris Effect is one of the best puzzlers out there for modern platforms. Taking Alexey Pajitnov’s classic puzzler as a basis, Tetris Effect combines classic Tetris gameplay with a few new mechanics and an astonishingly immersive synaesthetic component. The latter aspect is the work of the one and only Tetsuya Mizuguchi, the man who brought us Rez, Lumines and Child of Eden, and is among his best work.

Mizuguchi’s main aim with the original release of Tetris Effect was to explore the titular phenomenon, which describes how after playing a puzzle game for a long time you can continue to “see” the falling pieces in your mind’s eye for some time afterwards.

The hypnotic combination of soundtrack and visuals was intended to get you feeling “in the zone” — and indeed, the main new mechanic that Tetris Effect adds to the mix is called Zone, allowing you to clear vast quantities of lines at once in a very satisfying manner.

Tetris Effect Connected

What Tetris Effect Connected offers — after agreeing to an obscenely long Terms and Conditions document in which, among other things, you agree not to somehow upload pornography to the Tetris servers — is an excellent suite of multiplayer options, catering to those who enjoy both cooperative and competitive play. I was personally very pleased about the former aspect, because I enjoy puzzle games but inevitably find myself getting absolutely devastated by skilled online players in competitive matches — Tetris Effect, meanwhile, allows the fun of playing with others without the frustration thanks to its titular Connected mode.

In Tetris Effect Connected games, you and two other players compete against a computer-controlled “boss” enemy. During “Full Moon” events, which occur during the weekends rather than during actual full moons, a fourth player can take on the role of the boss, but at other times it is controlled by the AI.

Tetris Effect Connected games are cooperative affairs that unfold in two distinct phases. To begin with, the three of you are each playing your own game of Tetris and adding to a communal meter by clearing lines. In contrast to competitive and score-based modes, in Tetris Effect Connected it actually benefits you to simply clear lines as quickly as possible rather than trying to build up impressive combos, giving it quite a different feel.

Tetris Effect Connected

Once the meter is full, Tetris Effect Connected’s variant on the Zone mechanic activates. All three players’ playfields fuse together to make one large field, and everyone then takes it in turns to drop their pieces in place on this super-wide matrix. The aim, of course, is to set up as many line clears as possible while the Zone timer is active — the more you manage at once, the more “damage” you do to the boss by adding stacks of garbage blocks to his playfield.

What’s really nice about this mode is that although there’s no direct communication between players, there’s a real sense of struggling through each challenge together. During the initial phase, you can see everyone working independently to build that all-important meter, and during the Zone phase, there’s a sort of unspoken communication between players that occurs entirely through the positioning of pieces on the board.

It really does live up to that “connected” name; for just a short period, the three of you are thinking as one. And it’s a delightful feeling. I can see myself returning to this mode a lot more.

Tetris Effect Connected

For the competitive Tetris players, there are several ways to test your skill against others in Tetris Effect Connected. The first of these is Zone Battle, which makes use of all of Tetris Effect’s mechanics to provide a highly competitive game. Clearing lines, performing combos and doing fancy moves like T-spins send garbage over to your opponent, and your aim is, of course, to survive longer than them.

At the time of writing, if you’re not a particularly strong competitive Tetris player, expect to get absolutely decimated by pretty much everyone online. As the Ranked mode starts to populate a bit more and matchmaking gets better, matchups should hopefully become a bit more appropriate; be prepared for a bit of a struggle as the rankings establish themselves, however!

Tetris Effect Connected

If you’re not a fan of being flattened in less than a minute by superhuman Japanese Tetris players, you can try your hand at the two Score Attack modes. The first of these allows use of “modern Tetris” mechanics such as holding pieces, hard dropping and sliding pieces along surfaces and also credits things like combos, T-spins and other such manoeuvres. If you enjoy Tetris as it exists today and want to test your skill against another player without direct attacks on one another, this is a good way to play.

For those who used to play Tetris on the NES or Game Boy and wish it would go back to those good old days, the Classic Score Attack mode is designed exactly for you. Adopting an aesthetic inspired by the NES release of Tetris and featuring music remixed from the various 8-bit versions of the game, this mode is purely about earning points through line clears. All of the “modern” mechanics are disabled, so that means no holding pieces, only one piece visible in the “next” queue and no sliding pieces along surfaces — once they’re down, they’re down.

Once again, the Classic Score Attack mode doesn’t feature any direct attacks between players — it’s simply about playing Tetris alongside another person and seeing who can score the highest. When one player is knocked out, the other player is given an extra two minutes to either meet or exceed their score (if they’re not already in the lead) and from there a victor is determined.

Tetris Effect Connected

To keep things exciting and interesting, in both the Score Attack modes in Tetris Effect Connected, you’re able to see both your score and the positive or negative difference between you and your opponent. With this feature, you can keep track of how big your lead is or how far you’re lagging behind and adjust your strategy accordingly. It’s a really simple addition to the interface, but it makes a huge difference in making the otherwise “parallel solitaire” gameplay feel more directly competitive.

Each of the four modes in Tetris Effect Connected contribute to cumulative experience level which can be used to unlock avatars for use in multiplayer, and a thoroughly pleasant “Orbit” mode allows you to freely move around the in-game “universe” and check out other people’s avatars floating around. Certain in-game achievements also reward you with avatars, so you can make use of these for bragging rights as required — or just represent yourself as a jellyfish. Whatever you might be in the mood for!

All in all, Tetris Effect Connected is a great addition to an already excellent game — and now it’s available on all platforms, everyone can enjoy it together, even across different platforms. World peace might be within our reach after all.

Well, okay, probably not. But this is certainly a thoroughly lovely game to chill out with of an evening — and if you’re the sort of Tetris player who prefers playing for score than to be in direct competition with others, this is probably the definitive way to enjoy the game right now.

Tetris Effect Connected is available for PS4, Xbox, Nintendo Switch and PC.

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Pete Davison
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