We were vaguely aware that there was a new Tetris game on the horizon - after all, it's been a go-to puzzle game for millions of people since, well, forever. We also knew that this game - Tetris Effect - was a PS4-exclusive designed with PSVR in mind, although given our personal aversion to virtual reality perhaps that's why we weren't chomping at the bit to get at the game in the weeks before launch. It was our relative indifference that probably heightened the experience for us when we finally did get our hands on it, and it turned out to be one of our highlights of 2018.
Tetris Effect is meant to be played in VR, but it's also excellent when experienced on a flatscreen panel. It doesn't matter how you engage with it though, the audio-visual experience is still one of the most dazzling you can experience this year, and it creates the kind of mesmerising atmosphere that can hold you in its thrall for hours at a time, despite this essentially being the same game that we've been playing variations of since the '80s.
Obviously, there's something special about Tetris. Games don't get remade and reworked this many times without having a rare quality. Tetsuya Mizuguchi's Enhance Games and lead studio Resonair merely built on those rock solid foundations, but what they did differently to everyone else before them was to tie the act of dropping blocks to the audio-visual experience itself. Through a series of pulsating visual scenes that are accompanied by rhythmic beats loosely linked to the action that takes place on screen, they were able to enhance and accentuate the very essence of what makes Tetris so great. Gently linking the dropping of tetriminos to the rhythm and action surrounding the board was a subtle change, but it made all the difference to how it felt.
The campaign mode took players on a journey filled with different stages, each one a new scene playing out to a new song. Whether we were swimming through the oceans with whales or taking the action out of this world and up into space, there was a decent selection to get lost in. The Journey mode strings together multiple levels into short groups that have to be completed in sequence, and you can always up the difficulty if you're finding things a bit too pedestrian.
If you're really good and want to show off your skills you can always head to the leaderboards and make your mark there. Beyond the main Journey, there is a bunch of additional game types for players to explore. The only thing that's missing is multiplayer, and depending on how you're feeling you can either play variations of traditional Tetris or tackle some fun modes that use the basic mechanics in new ways. In this sense, and within the reasonably strict confines of this being a single-player-only Tetris game, Effect offered a great amount of variation for players to dive into. Best of all, if you've got friends who take pride in their high scores, you've always got the option to start honing those skills until you can routinely beat their personal best.
We always look forward to playing a new Tetris game, and this PS4-exclusive was no different. However, our modest anticipation for the game was swept aside almost as soon as we picked up the DualShock 4 and started playing, and we quickly fell in love with this unique take on the classic concept. As far as we're concerned, Tetris Effect is the best that Tetris has ever been, and even if you don't have a PSVR headset we'd still recommend you pick it up. The price might be considered a touch high given our collective familiarity with the series, but then again, when the experience you get for your money is as immersive and engaging as this is, it's hard to argue that it's not worth the investment.