Tetris Effect’s Journey Mode Goes Against Everything Tetris Taught Me

If you haven’t been paying close attention to the release of Tetris Effect, I can’t say I’m surprised considering how packed this year has been for games. Announced back at E3 earlier this year, Tetris Effect is the latest game by game designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi, the creator of Rez and Lumines. The game is named after the ‘Tetris effect’ phenomena where, after performing a repetitive task (in this case, playing Tetris), people begin to see falling Tetrimino blocks in their thoughts, mental images and dreams.

The developers of Tetris Effect put out a demo this weekend (and only this weekend, sadly), giving players the opportunity to understand exactly what the game is trying to achieve. After spending only five minutes with Tetris Effect, it becomes apparent that this is a different type of Tetris experience that you won’t have played before. As someone that has spent hundreds of hours playing Tetris across a range of titles, this is the first Tetris game to make me think differently before trying to clear as many lines as I can.

In the developer’s own words, Journey Mode aims to “take players on a wondrous, emotional journey through the universe”. Tetris Effect’s Journey Mode wants players to feel totally immersed in the experience as they listen to the music and watch as the backgrounds react with the gameplay. Each block you place, every line you clear and all the Zones you activate, alter the look and sound of the game. The only problem with this intriguing premise is that it directly goes against everything that all the other Tetris games teach players to do.When it comes to playing modern Tetris, speed is everything. All you want to do is hammer down Tetris after Tetris after Tetris, because that’s what’s going to score you the most amount of points. Playing at a high speed actively goes against what Journey Mode sets out to do, which is immerse the player in the game. Listen as the sound effects ruin the flow of the music, or as the visuals become highly distracting when clearing massive amounts of lines. In order to achieve the optimal experience in Journey Mode, players are encouraged to play at a slow, yet steady pace.

This slow and steady ideology is reinforced even when it comes to restarting the game. There isn’t a single person who hasn’t made a mistake when playing Tetris. Sometimes you try to fit a piece where it can’t possibly go, forcing you to try and rectify this issue at a later point. When I make a mistake in single player Tetris, my instant reaction is to press start and head to the restart button. Journey Mode doesn’t have a restart button, forcing players to back out to the menus before jumping back into the game. Journey Mode wants you to make the best of a bad situation and continue as normal. Believe me, I want to be immersed. I want the game to take away my competitive mindset and allow me to enjoy the experience, but after years of playing Tetris seriously, I’m not sure if this is possible.

While I personally may not be able to enjoy Journey Mode to its fullest extent, I am still able to appreciate what the developers are trying to do. I’m almost certain there hasn’t been a Tetris game that has ever attempted to push the boundaries of what a Tetris game is. Journey Mode puts a spin on the original formula by putting players into the ‘Tetris effect’ mindset much faster than they would expect.Though Journey Mode isn’t made for players like me, there’s always the option of Effect Mode (a huge selection of unique modes) which seems to give competitive players a challenge. In addition to this, Tetris Effect can be altered to the way competitive players would typically play the game. Sure, the game loses some of its magic in this form, but I’m glad the developers gave a thought to the hardcore community.

If there’s still time, definitely check out the Tetris Effect demo on PS4. You don’t have to be an expert Tetris player to enjoy it, in fact, you might appreciate the game even more if you aren’t a massive fan of Tetris. Supposedly the game is incredible in VR, though I doubt I’ll get to try this as we only have a Vive. Here’s hoping the game heads to PC in the future!