When I first heard Tetris Effect was getting a full multiplayer update, I have to admit I was a little bit apprehensive.
Turning a wholly personal journey of discovery, enchantment and wonder into a multiplayer matchmaker seems like it might dilute the amazing things Enhance have already achieved.
It seems strange to say because Tetris has been an extremely popular multiplayer game for many, many years. It’s constantly proven to be varied enough to thrive with the times. Just look at Tetris 99.
But while that super popular, incredibly addictive and brilliantly executed mode in particular isn’t present here, Enhance have still managed to provide something different and unique you’ve never experienced from Tetris before, all packaged as perfectly as ever.
Connected includes the full Tetris Effect experience, the same compelling Journey that stole the world’s heart and won game of the year accolades across the board. That, in itself, makes this a must-play for Xbox owners, who finally get the chance to jump in.
Journey is a very special, powerful, personal experience that simply must be seen to be believed. Some might simply think of it as Tetris with fireworks, but that does such a disservice to the emotional bond that builds while you play the game.
The use of different instruments, the settings and environments that flash and dazzle in the background as you connect shapes and make lines. The subtle messages left open to your own interpretation. It’s Tetris, but reinvigorated, rejuvenated and re-energised in the most amazing way.
And in 4K and higher frame rates, Effect looks fantastic, shining brighter than it ever has. It’s simply wonderful, though some levels were surprisingly stuttery at times.
That, right there, is a treat enough for Xbox fans but there’s also a series of new modes, created especially for this version by Monstars, Resonair, and Stage Games.
And multiplayer surprisingly works for Tetris Effect. At the heart of it, Connected mode, which puts a three player team together to take on a powerful AI boss. You each have your own individual grids to complete, but when you zone in together, the grids combine and you can actually help each other create lines for a limited time, piling the pressure on the boss. It’s a fascinating concept that seems like it could be a nightmare for pro players who might grimace seeing their hard work lost, but it’s a mode that could only really work in Effect, connecting closely with the game’s overall message of unity.
The boss character has tricks to help them keep afloat, like planting blocks on other players grids, not allowing hard drops and turning blocks into rock. It gives a slight advantage against the other three players trying to stack your blocks to the sky, and it’s enough of a challenge that it won’t be an easy ride. Especially since the AI is pretty brutally tough and can seem more than a match for all three of you at times.
There’s also the option of having a fourth player play the role of the boss, which can make for a real challenge, but also if you want to have access to those abilities yourself. That’s only available during time-limited weekend events – known as Full Moon – though, so take advantage of it while you can.
All of this counts and contributes to a multiplayer tiered system with you earning XP and levelling up as you work through the different modes. This does, of course, then match you with people so you can find an opponent with similar skill. Which is a relief as there’s some pretty expert level Tetris players out there and no one wants to find themselves playing someone at World Championship material out of the gate.
Speaking of, Connected has a Classic Score Attack mode which plays by the old rules. For instance you can’t swap your Tetrimino and the spin mechanic is tighter and slower. It’s the rules used for the World Championships, which certainly presents an intriguing possibility from an eSports perspective. Maybe it’s time for Effect to take center stage?
All together, it makes for a compelling, replayable multiplayer experience that rewards continued logins with unique weekend events and its ranking system, yet somehow it feels like it naturally belongs with Tetris Effect, as if it was always there from day one.
Whether one can say this makes Connected the definitive edition of the game is an arguable point. It’s 4k and 60fps on Series X and there’s new music, but there’s no VR to be found here, which some people regard as a game-changer and essential play on that hardware. On the other hand, no other platform is offering multiplayer right now. At least until the Summer, anyway.
While it might seem obvious, then, to wait for the game to hit PS5, Enhance currently don’t have plans to create a version that supports the hardware. Fortunately, for the best of both worlds, the Windows 10 version will eventually support VR in a future update, and with cross-play offered through Xbox and the game available on GamePass, you have a potentially rich pool of online players for the long-term, with the option to play VR as well.
Either way, what’s become abundantly clear is Enhance can do no wrong with Tetris Effect. You have options to play in a way that makes sense to you, and can even have it all with one particular version of the game. Eventually.
Connected is a real triumph, then. Even a year and a bit on, I can still find myself diving into this game, losing myself for hours at a time. The difference is this no longer has to remain a personal voyage of discovery. It’s now one I can embark on with friends and strangers from all over the world, while still feeling just as in sync with its message. This deserves to keep finding new audiences, it needs to be played by everyone, and in the back of my mind, part of me hopes the greatest players of the game use it to go head to head on the biggest stages.
It’s nothing less than this magical game deserves.
+ Multiplayer feels like it’s always belonged
+ Even more beautiful music
+ The Journey is as magical as ever
– No VR on Xbox feels like a bit of a loss
– Some surprising stutters and frame rate drops
Tetris Effect: Connected is now available on Xbox and PC. It releases on other formats Summer 2021
Tested on Xbox Series X
Code kindly provided by Enhance