Tetris Effect: Connected is a joyous expansion to an amazing puzzle game that feels like it was born to be on Xbox Series X in all its neon glory.
It’s hard to improve on excellence, but the developers behind Tetris Effect have somehow done it twice. The original game took what was already the most refined puzzle experience around and added the distinct audiovisual flair of Rez creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi. The end result is a transcendent experience in and out of VR, a complicated feast for the eyes that never strays from the core game’s innate complexity. In Xbox Series X launch game Tetris Effect: Connected, Mizuguchi and his trio of development teams add in a unique multiplayer mode that hits the same high notes, pushing the themes of the game forward and providing a block-dropping good time in the process.
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The mode, aptly titled Connected, pits three Tetris players against bosses based on various constellations in the sky. Players each clear lines on their own board to build towards the Connected phase, which links all three boards together and challenges the trio to clear lines on that board to damage the boss. On the flip side, bosses can throw unique powers at players, including lasers that blast apart playfields and a blocker on fast drops. Each separate game has players go through several different boss fights, which can stretch things out and encourage random teammates to reconsider hanging in there.
However, if going in with like-minded friends, there’s not a better Tetris experience to be had. The subtle remix of each Tetris Effect song, the way they hit their crescendo right as the boards link, is all a spectacular feast for the senses that retains the tight gameplay players expect out of Tetris. A few generations ago, this Connected multiplayer concept would have easily carried its own release, so it’s a valuable addition to an already full package.
There are several other traditional multiplayer modes players can seek out in Connected, including one that takes things back all the way to the days of the NES. Alongside a standard one-on-one matchup, there’s a one-on-one that takes away features like infinite spin, holding blocks, and hard dropping, all with appropriately retro visuals. It might also be worth bringing friends into these modes, as the more competitive options attract the type of Tetris players that will stomp anyone not playing on a tournament level. Tetris Effect is supposed to be a calming experience, but one match against those players is enough to make someone yearn for the comforting anime embrace of Puyo Puyo Tetris 2.
Outside of the new modes, Tetris Effect has never looked better than it does on Xbox Series X. The abundant neon particle effects shine with the help of HDR and the game keeps up the pace thanks to swift load times. The lack of VR support is disappointing considering how well that worked even on PlayStation VR, but the game does not lack immersion even on a TV. The full versions of the existing modes from the game make the trek to new consoles with nothing left behind, and it’s easy to swap between the console and PC versions of the game thanks to Xbox Play Anywhere. As far as launch titles go, Tetris Effect: Connected is easily among the best for Microsoft’s new console.
Even years removed from the original release of Tetris Effect, this electrifying musical puzzle experience continues to be pitch-perfect. In some ways, playing it now reveals how forward-thinking it was. Much like how Geometry Wars was a go-to test case before launch, it feels like Tetris Effect will be revisited as a comparison point for how the new Xbox progresses over its lifetime. Even though it didn’t release first here, Tetris Effect: Connected feels like it was designed for this hardware and moment in time.
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Tetris Effect: Connected is available on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Windows 10. It is coming to PlayStation and other PC platforms in 2021. An Xbox Series X code was provided to Screen Rant for the purposes of this review.
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