Games: Therapy for the soul, Tetris Effect is the greatest game named after a mental infirmity
Tetris Effect (PS4)
MAKING the leap from medical journals to videogame merriment, the latest dose of block-shifting from the 500 million-selling Tetris franchise takes its name from a genuine syndrome where people pattern their thoughts on addictive activities.
The brainchild of Alexey Pajitnov, Tetris was a thing of simple beauty, connecting brain and fingers like no game before or since. Yet while completed in 1984, it wasn't until it came bundled with every Game Boy five years later that Tetris fever (not to be confused with Tetris syndrome) went pandemic – its mix of Russian ditties and spatial awareness so compulsive it even spawned a hit record when Andrew Lloyd Webber released a Euro-dance cash-in of its earworm theme under the nom de plume of Doctor Spin.
Unless you've woken from a lengthy coma, Tetris's core gameplay needs no introduction – I may as well describe a tree. Variations of its geometric corralling have graced all manner of consoles and doodads with various tweaks to the action. Tetris Effect channels the pure, uncut original, but co-produced by Sega's Tetsuya Mizuguchi, borrows heavily from his trippy PlayStation Portable trance-puzzler, Lumines.
Playing against a backdrop of dazzling themes and trippy music that contort with the gameplay, Tetris Effect is akin to tackling the Russian puzzler on acid while trapped in a series of New Age album covers.
The resulting sensory overload is a euphoric spin on the age-old formula, with a dynamic soundtrack and all manner of hallucinatory hooey that Mizuguchi says is "tailor-made for each level and triggered by your actions – they're all meant to make you feel something, to convey a mood or even provoke an emotional response".
Its 30 stages and 10 modes include a Zone mechanic, where you can freeze the pieces from falling to wriggle out of tight spots, and an Effects Mode that offers a variety of modifiers to the basic premise, from speed runs and score attacks to skill-training brain-ticklers.
Of course, if you want to just chill out on its unique brand of digital Prozac, the Relax setting offers up themed levels such as Sea or Wind, where you can trip the light fantastic without risk of a game over screen. Alternatively, go full sensory overload with its optional VR mode – guaranteed to have you grinning like a filthy hippy.
With a stonking ambient soundtrack and incredible visuals, Tetris Effect is the silkiest, most responsive reinvention of the classic puzzler yet – but the 35 quid ask is a bit much for a game that, at its trippy heart, can be played for free on everything from fridges to Facebook.
Still, all those extra trimmings are guaranteed to leave your bong hole grinning as it gets its claws into your grey matter. Therapy for the soul, Tetris Effect is the best puzzler since the original commie time-waster, and the greatest game named after a mental infirmity.