The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the biggest trade show in video games, is just around the corner. Given the medium's nigh-unshakeable tendency to treat its output with the highest financial backing as consumer products and not as, y'know, art, it's been harder and harder for me to get excited caught up in the E3 hype cycle for games.
Sure, there's the occasional independently-developed title I hope to see in the spotlight at the big Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo stage presentations — it'd be nice to see what the follow-up to "Spelunky" will look like — but triple-A budgets, overdue sequels and "mature" reboots just don't get my blood pumping like they did when I was a teen. Back then I had way, way more free time on my hands, both for playing video games and for, well, being unreasonably excited for them prior to release. That's not the case anymore.
This is all to say that E3 hasn't even started yet, but I'm super excited for a new version of a game that's over thirty years old. I'm obsessed with a new version of "Tetris."
Thought #1: Why haven't they used the name "Tetris Effect" before? It's so obvious!
Announced for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR yesterday, "Tetris Effect" is a reimagined version of the classic block-stacking, line-clearing game spearheaded by Tetsuya Mizuguchi's studio Enhance Games. Mizuguchi and company are no strangers to block-based puzzle games — both "Lumines" and "Meteos," games by Mizuguchi's older studio Q Entertainment, fit the "Tetris"-inspired bill — but the more prominent gaming touchstone here is "Rez," a cross between a rhythm game, an on-rails shooter and cyberpunk psychedelia. "Tetris Effect" looks like they plopped a game of "Tetris" into the aesthetic of "Rez."
This game is going to consume me.
If you've never played "Rez," some additional context might help get you on my wavelength. Mizuguchi drew inspiration for the game from a diverse range of sources (from painter Wassily Kandinsky to Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" music video). The resulting experience was wholly unlike anything that had come before it in 2001, save perhaps for "Tetris." The pumping techno soundtrack and colorful, consciously artificial visuals help "Rez" lull even a first-time player into an intense flow state. It's been remastered a twice — and upgraded for VR — but even the original version of "Rez" managed to capture my full attention at a museum exhibition a few years ago. As people still like to snicker about to this day, "Rez" was so all-in on synesthesia that you could purchase with a unique hardware accessory: a "trance vibrator" that would pulse and buzz in time to the music and visuals on screen.
Thought #89: I need to live a state where weed is legal by the time this game comes out.
The "Tetris Effect" derives its name from the real academic research into the effect "Tetris" has on players' consciousness. Even before the Harvard study referenced in the trailer for "Tetris Effect," the game's creator Alexey Pajitnov wondered at the strange effect "Tetris" had on players, including him:
My feeling is it's more like music. Playing games is a very specific rhythmic and visual pleasure. For me, Tetris is some song which you sing and sing inside yourself and can't stop.
Falling into deep Tetris trances, seeing tetrominoes as I drift off to sleep — I've done both, and at the thought of combining the artistry of "Rez" with the irresistible simplicity of "Tetris," I can only assume the "effect" will be that much stronger.
The last time I fell really hard for "Tetris" was over a decade ago with the release of "Tetris DS," a portable version of the game co-produced by the rights holders to "Tetris" and Nintendo. Like with "Tetris Effect," Nintendo dressed the basic game up with a visualizer element: on one screen there'd be "Tetris," on the other a mock-up version of a classic 8-bit Nintendo game like "Super Mario Bros." or "Metroid." Instead of directly controlling the action on the second screen, the player character of the classic game would essentially "act out" a performance that tracked with how well you were doing at Tetris.
Thought #164: When the people who have destroyed "Tetris the Grand Master" play this game, will they simply ascend to another plane of existence?
Most of the time, you'd be so focused on playing "Tetris" that you'd have barely any idea what was happening on the second screen, but the succession of earworm tunes from each Nintendo game were remixed to all sound of a hypnotizing piece. By the time you'd reach the last stretch of a 200-line run and the classic "Tetris" song kicked in, you were fully in the zone.
If the cheap trick of a nostalgia blast on a 2.4-inch screen was enough to make me fritter away countless hours on "Tetris DS," I can hardly imagine just how time-sucking the "Tetris Effect" will be. After all, it's already all I can think about, and I haven't even played it yet.
Thought #999: ⃞⃞⃞⃞