Tetris Effect: Connected is one of the greatest single-player games ever made with multiplayer (and an unlikely Xbox Series X and S launch killer app). It’s an easy sell to someone like me, who adores Tetris Effect to the point of never really shutting up about it. But its timing couldn’t be better.
I was lucky enough to get the chance to play Tetris Effect: Connected for just over an hour recently, and yes, it has the versus multiplayer you’d expect, with the time-stopping Zone mechanic cleverly woven in, but what’s most interesting about this game is the co-op.
The co-op, called Connected (a riff on Tetris Effect’s life-affirming title song), sees three players team up to try to defeat computer-controlled bosses. That’s right, boss fights in Tetris Effect – and it’s wondrous.
Here’s how it works: you start by playing in your own matrix, clearing lines as normal. Occasionally the boss will send over attacks, called Blitzes, your way, triggering a game-changing effect that annoys the hell out of you. The boss might turn your screen upside down, or send over a super large Tetrimino. That kind of thing. The boss can also choose to go on the defense, too. Here, the boss can remove some of the garbage lines you’ve sent over.
Meanwhile, as you clear lines all three players fill up their shared Connected meter, and once it’s full, all three matrices converge to become one. When you’re all connected, you each take turns to place Tetriminos, clearing lines that are pushed to the bottom as they normally are during Zone, then sent over to the boss when the meter expires in a bid to top it out. This is the only way to attack the boss – together in co-op. There’s no way to attack the boss as an individual. Also thrown into the Connected mix are Magicminos, magical purple Tetriminos that work to fill gaps, pushing anything in their way to fix the playfield.
At first this is a quite bewildering thing to do. You see an outline of where your Tetrimino will land, and you’re sort of competing for position as your co-op friends move about their outlines on the connected screen. But it’s not long before all three of you somehow start thinking as one, almost leading each other to place Tetriminos in such a way as to create that Tetris endorphin shot. When all three players are in the zone together, quickly placing blocks one after the other, it is a quite magical thing. I was playing with strangers, and yet we found ourselves in unison. No voice communication. No pings. Just… Tetris.
There are 12 bosses to work through, each based on one of the signs of the zodiac, and each with its own stage, style and, crucially, music. Music of course is one of the best things about Tetris Effect, and I’m told new music has been recorded for Connected. I’m also told the final boss is something special. Dear reader, I cannot tell you how excited I am to play this game with friends and reach this boss. Truly, the next generation has arrived.
And it arrives, as I said, at the perfect moment in time. In the middle of a pandemic, amid lockdowns and crushing isolation, at a time when I have no idea when I’ll next see my elderly mother, Tetris Effect’s new Connected mode is the multiplayer I need. It is an effortless co-op. It can be played in a quite lovely chill out variant, a breezy co-op Tetris I imagine will have that brilliant virtual pub effect I used to get from mindlessly farming in World of Warcraft – I am doing things in a lovely video game almost in pilot mode, and having a laugh with friends. I appreciate Tetris Effect is not the only video game to offer such a thing, but only Tetris Effect is Tetris Effect. So.
And get this, for 24 hours every weekend, Tetris Effect: Connected gets a versus variant, which lets a fourth player control the boss and fight against the team of three. I, the best Tetris player I know, will certainly give that one a shot.
What else? Oh yes. I played Score Attack – a one-on-one competition with standard Tetris Effect rules (so, no Zone mechanic) and where no line attacks are exchanged. It’s all about your high score. The developers think of this as “single-player competitive Tetris”. It can go on for quite a while and can be quite chill. I can see this one being popular with couples on the same couch.
Classic Score Attack is a one-on-one score-attack competition played using old-school Tetris rules. It is, essentially, competitive NES Tetris – you know, the Tetris the pros play at the big live tournaments. As someone who has focused on Tetris Effect and all its mod cons in recent years, I found this mode pretty brutal. There’s no hard dropping, no ghost outline to show you where your Tetrimino will land, no ability to hold a Tetrimino. Only one piece is shown in the next queue. The pieces spin a bit differently, too, and lock down immediately when they touch a surface, so none of that desperate spinning at the last. It felt like playing Tetris with one hand tied behind my back. Certainly one to work on.
I keep coming back to Zone Battle as I think about the game. It’s here I reckon I’ll end up spending most of my time, working on improving my skill rating by winning ranked matches (cross-play between PC and Xbox confirmed!). The Zone mechanic is used here as an aggressive offense or defense. When in the Zone you send over bonus lines and block incoming garbage. Time to dust off those Tetris 99 tactics muscles.
All the while, you progress through the various tiers, each indicating a different level of overall ability and experience. Which tier you fall into is based on an aggregate of your skill rating in all the different modes (your SR increases when you win ranked matches and decreases when you lose, as you’d expect). So, you don’t have to play one-on-one ranked to move through the tiers, which is good because Tetris Effect: Connected has a sort of galaxy-themed story in which you slowly work your way from the outer rim to an odd pyramid shaped object at the centre. What’s there? And what’s the nearby black hole about? Tetris Effect secrets – you gotta love it.
I’m also thinking about how stripped down the multiplayer is from a visuals point of view compared to the eye-catching single-player. You won’t find any of the fancy background visuals here, and with good reason. The fewer distractions the better when it comes to competitive Tetris! But the multiplayer is still a gorgeous game. Effects are flying all over the place, all at 4K resolution and 60 frames per second on an Xbox Series X.
This isn’t a review. I haven’t played enough of Tetris Effect: Connected for that. But let’s be honest, it was always going to be a banger, wasn’t it? It’s the Eurogamer Essential single-player game – Eurogamer’s 2018 game of the year, too – with brilliant multiplayer added on. I feel confident saying this one’s looking good.
And yes, dear reader, I have been listening to the Tetris Effect soundtrack as I typed this article. Get hype.
Tetris Effect: Connected will be available digitally on Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S, Game Pass and for the PC via the Microsoft Store starting 10th November 10th – the day the Xbox Series X and S come out. The expansion will then be made available as a free update in summer 2021 for all owners of
Tetris Effect, on all platforms.