This new chapter of the classic puzzle game reinvents the franchise with new features, tons of challenges, and an audiovisual presentation that's out of this world. Tetris Effect breathes new life into the line-clearing format by taking players on an audio and visual journey that moves from the depths of the seas to the sands of the desert and even to outer space. But this isn't the old Tetris that you're accustomed to. Along with the sound effects attached to each piece as you move, rotate, and drop it in place, the stages accelerate the speed that pieces drop or move, changing two or three times per level. As a result, the gameplay has a larger sense of movement and pacing than ever before. What's also notable is the inclusion of the new Zone mechanic. As you clear lines, you fill a meter that can be triggered at any time, pausing blocks and giving you a chance to eliminate sections of the map until the meter runs out. Any cleared lines immediately drop to the bottom, which is useful if you need to fix mistakes you've made or want bonus points. Zone lets you make incredible combos that can be more than 10 lines in sequence, but its tactical use, especially on fast-paced stages, can't be stated enough; it's a game changer that evolves Tetris into a new format.
Effects mode is also notable for its challenge collection, which can easily make you say, "Just one more game," as you try to unlock new avatars or songs. There are 15 submodes in all, ranging from the standard Marathon mode, where you clear as many lines as possible, to timed challenges. Two really stand out as clear stars: Purify gives you three minutes to clear infected blocks that continually spawn as you clear lines. Mystery, on the other hand, throws random effects at you as you try to clear as many lines as possible, such as giant blocks, flipping the game map upside down, or even detonating bombs. Plus, if you chose to use it, the VR is striking: The remixed sounds and the visuals that fly out of the screen really envelope you in sound and light, making the line clearing even more surreal and amazing. If there's one issue, it's that the game doesn't offer multiplayer of any kind, but this could easily be remedied in the future. Overall, Tetris has never looked better or had more addictive play. If you're a puzzle fan, you owe it to yourself to dive into the Tetris Effect.