Three-player co-op boss battles are the highlight
Whether you're a first-time player of Tetris Effect or just showing up for the new exclusive timed multiplayer modes, Tetris Effect: Connected is worth checking out, especially with Xbox Game Pass.
Along with the original Tetris Effect story campaign and objective-based effect modes that I've been loving for two years now, with Connected you also get a multiplayer suite. The new package is $40 on Windows 10 and Xbox consoles (including Xbox Series X/S), and Enhance has committed to a free “Summer 2022” update for owners of Tetris Effect on PS4. PC and Oculus Quest.
So what are the modes? There are three one-on-one modes – Zone Battle, Score Attack, and Classic Score Attack – as well as the Connected mode of the same name, a three-player mode against an AI-boss.
Out of these versus modes, Zone Battle feels the freshest – it's about clearing lines to create attacks, then strategically defending against or nullifying your enemy's attacks as much as possible knowing when to enter the area to clear the trash. Score Attack is a one-on-one high score battle, and once one player taps out, the other player has an additional two minutes to consolidate their score.
Classic Score Attack works much the same, but with a retro visual style, more "stiff" controls/rules, and a more back-to-basics approach to Tetris. You cannot make hard Drops and there is no queue.
I'm not sure if I'll stick with any of these long term - I'm not cut out for them - but I'm very invested in bound fashion. In short, you'll face a series of (increasingly tougher) AI-controlled zodiac bosses with the help of two other players (human or AI). At first, your team's playing fields are completely separate, but as you clear lines and build your shared meter, the three fields will temporarily merge into one. At this point, it's an all-out race. You'll take turns quickly dropping piece after piece in hopes of clearing as many lines as possible to send an avalanche hurtling towards the boss.
Connected mode is definitely chaotic and even stressful at first, but with practice I started to feel more comfortable with the flow. (Musical cues help.) In an effort to make cooperative Tetris fun and non-infuriating, you'll occasionally get purple chunks that can depress and "correct" misplacements.
It wasn't live for testing yet, but there's also a Vs connected. mode in which a human player can replace the AI boss. This will be playable during 24-hour “full moon” events on weekends.
Multiplayer modes have their own sleek space hub that feels right at home in Tetris Effect (take a minute to fly around and explore) and player progression uses a tier system "based on an aggregate of your skill rating in all the different modes' as it goes up and down with every victory or defeat.
Oddly enough, the game hints that "as you level up, you'll also get closer and closer to the mysterious, radiating obelisk at the center of the galaxy: the Tetrimidion." As for me? I just want to unlock avatars.
If you're super competitive, there's a ranked match option; otherwise, you can stick to friend matches or local matches against the AI. This also applies to all multiplayer modes. You can set the AI skill, so if you are struggling with the tougher Zodiac fights, you can increase the AI partners.
I don't necessarily think the new connected content exceeds anything that was already in Tetris Effect, but after a few hours (with the Windows 10 version) the multiplayer modes are up to expectations. It's a great all-around package for new players, and it'll be a fantastic free update for players returning to PS4 and Steam Tetris Effect next summer. We are all together in this life.
[These impressions are based on a retail build of the game played via Xbox Game Pass on PC.]