Tetris Effect review: The puzzle game of my dreams—literally - Canadanewsmedia
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Tetris Effect review: The puzzle game of my dreams—literally

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Enlarge / It’s here, and it’s beautiful.
Enhance Games / Aurich

Before I began playing this week’s new game, Tetris Effect, I found myself tempted to compare it to other versions of the puzzle series. That’s an easy trap to fall into—a bullet-point sorting of tweaks, features, and differences—and one that gets pretty unwieldy with decades of Tetris games to compare to.

But shortly after I dove into Tetris Effect, with a PlayStation VR headset firmly strapped to my head, my thinking about this game drifted somewhere surprising: not to another game or sequel, but to an event. Specifically, I thought of the latest Classic Tetris World Championship, held in Portland, Oregon, in October.

There, a 16-year-old named Joseph Saelee rocked the gaming world by besting seasoned veterans of the game’s 1989 NES version and winning it all. You’ve seen Tetris before, but never like this—with a multi-camera rig showing pros’ gamer faces as they pound through ultra-fast sessions in incredible fashion (aided in no small part by a “hyper-tapping” technique used to keep sessions going beyond that version’s “kill screen”). I’ll never forget what I saw. What unfolded was not revolutionary, but its presentation, drama, and feeling of an oldie born anew made the competition particularly thrilling to watch.

That level of exhilaration—of the familiar and the astounding slamming together, all wrapped in a blanket of tetrads—can also be found in Tetris Effect. That speaks to the game’s brilliant guiding principle: not to outdo Tetris but to newly celebrate it. In October, I watched Saelee emerge as a victor, then awkwardly hold a tetrad-shaped trophy in the air while fighting through tears, clearly beside himself. The closest I may ever get to matching Saelee’s emotional state has come from playing Tetris Effect.

Subconscious-molding potential

That’s not to say this game doesn’t establish some intriguing tweaks and changes to what has come before in dropping-block video games. But any conversation about Tetris Effect should start with a focus on the word “Effect” in the title.

Enhance Games’ recent Tetris press tour included stories about the series’ hypnotic effect on the human brain, whether via anecdotes or formal research. The phenomenon of closing your eyes and seeing endless falling Tetris shapes or feeling like the gameplay has invaded your dreams (or sometimes nightmares) has been explored to some extent in scientific study. Researchers have even explored how amnesia sufferers have retained Tetris-related information after playing the game at length.

In an interview, producer Tetsuya Mizuguchi confirmed to Ars that he wanted to make an official Tetris game for years. He had even tried securing the series’ license before developing rhythmic puzzle games like Lumines and Meteos in the early ’00s. Those series revolve around levels where the blocks, backgrounds, music, and sound effects sync together; in Lumines‘ case, that aesthetic touch also impacts gameplay, as a timing meter determines exactly how you drop and break the game’s puzzle blocks.

Tetris Effect, then, marries Mizuguchi’s sights-and-sounds design philosophy with the subconscious-molding potential of Tetris. If we all see Tetris in the corners of our mind’s eye—in the milky blackness of sleep and dreams and meditation—then why not emulate that powerful feeling within a standalone game?

Whether you play Tetris Effect in VR or on a standard TV, you can still look forward to a game that largely resembles other standard, old-school Tetris games. Meaning, players will focus their attention on a standard, 2D board of falling pieces (10 blocks wide, 20 blocks tall), as opposed to a jigsaw-styled mess of 3D pieces a la Tetrisphere.

In VR, the standard Tetris board appears at a distance I’d call roughly an arm’s reach away, while that board fills the middle of a TV screen in 2D mode. (In both cases, you can adjust exactly how zoomed-in the primary board appears, either via pre-game menus or by pressing a joystick in the middle of a live session.) Where Tetris Effect differs is how it fills the virtual space all around the board, whether within VR or on a TV screen. A clear vision cone means you’ll never lose sight of the board and its falling blocks, but the entire periphery—everything above, below, and around—can either sparkle with particle effects or erupt with elements like creatures, airplanes, and distant planets.

In our review period, we unearthed roughly 33 playfields (known as “skins”), and these impact your gameplay more like Meteos than Lumines. The visuals, block shapes, colors, sound effects, and music are all tied together, but they don’t impact the basic gameplay. Tetrads fit together and fall down the same way in the aquarium level as they do in the sweeping-desert one.

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Google Says All Android Pie Phones Support Project Treble; Pie Will Be on More Devices in 2018 Than Oreo in 2017

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Just a few days after its Android Developer Summit, Google has announced that all devices launching with Android 9 Pie or later will be Project Treble-complaint. To recall, the tech giant had launched Project Treble last year with an aim to reduce the delay of updates by OEM partners to Android devices. A major issue with the Android version adoption is the slow rollout of customised versions from manufacturers to their handsets. Thanks to Project Treble, Google believes Android 9 Pie will hit more devices by the end of 2018 than the number of handsets with Android Oreo in 2017.

In a new post on Android Developers Blog, Google has provided an update on the developments in Project Treble. As mentioned, Google says all future devices launching with Android 9 Pie or later will be Treble-compliant and take “full advantage of the Treble architecture” to deliver quicker upgrades. Iliyan Malchev, Project Treble Architect, in the blog says, “Thanks to Treble, we expect to see more devices from OEMs running Android 9 Pie at the end of 2018 as compared to the number of devices that were running Android Oreo at the end of 2017.”

While Google’s expectations could work in Project Treble’s benefit, it is interesting to note that not many smartphones have adopted the latest Android build yet. As per Google’s monthly Android distribution chart for October 2018, the share of Android smartphones running Android Pie was still less than 0.1 percent. To recall, the total share of Android Oreo in January 2018 stood at 0.7 percent and 0.5 percent in December 2017.

At the recently concluded Android Developer Summit, Google demonstrated the benefits of Project Treble by showing the same Generic System Image (GSI) running on devices from different manufacturers. GSI is essentially a pure and unmodified build of Android from the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), devoid of any device maker or carrier customisations. In the latest blog, the company says that the GSI is built from the latest available AOSP source code, including the latest bug fixes contributed by OEMs.

“We’re continuing to work on making GSI even more accessible and useful for app developers. For example, the GSI could enable early access to future Android platform builds that you can run on a Treble-compliant Android 9 device, so you could start app development and validation before the AOSP release,” Malchev further added.

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Galaxy S10's notched design further teased by new patent

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Galaxy S10’s notched design further teased by new patent

Black Friday Deals 2018 – Best UK Sales Now Started

Galaxy X looks simply stunning in new Samsung foldable phone images

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Nokia's December 5 Event Announced, Three Phones Teased

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HMD Global’s Chief Product Officer, Juho Sarvikas, has just announced a press event for December 5. The company’s Chief Product Officer made this announcement via its official Twitter page, and in the image that he published, he announced that the press conference will be held in Dubai, and in the provided image, we can actually see three smartphones, barely. This probably indicates that HMD Global plans to announce three Nokia-branded handsets in Dubai next month, though Mr. Sarvikas did not really release any additional information, of course. Now, if rumors are to be believed, Nokia will introduce the Nokia 8.1, Nokia 2.1 Plus, and the Nokia 9 during this event, and we’re not entirely sure that will happen, as it’s more likely that HMD Global will announce the Nokia 9 during a separate event next year, but we’ll talk more about that down below. The Nokia 8.1 and Nokia 2.1 Plus are both options, though, but if the Nokia 9 will not make an appearance, what is the third phone that HMD Global plans to announce? We can only speculate at this point, as nothing has been confirmed in general, we’re not really sure that the Nokia 8.1 and 2.1 Plus will make an appearance.

Background: The Nokia 8.1 is actually rumored to become official soon, and it will probably be announced at this event in Dubai. The Nokia 8.1 is actually the Nokia X7 which was announced in China a while back, so we pretty much know what to expect out of that phone. The phone will be made out of metal and glass, it will sport two cameras on the back, and a rear-facing fingerprint scanner. The Nokia 8.1 will include a display notch, and a ‘chin’ below the display, where the company’s logo will be imprinted. The Snapdragon 710 64-bit octa-core processor will fuel the device, while the phone will feature a 6.18-inch fullHD+ (2280 x 1080) display. The phone will include 4GB or 6GB of RAM (maybe it arrives in both variants), and 64GB / 128GB of expandable storage. 12 and 13-megapixel cameras will be included on the back of the device, while a single 20-megapixel camera will be a part of the offering as well. This phone will include two SIM card slots, and a 3,500mAh battery, along with 18W fast charging. As you can see, the Nokia 8.1 will be a mid-range smartphone, and there’s a good chance it will become official during this event.

As far as the Nokia 2.1 Plus is concerned, not much is known about this smartphone, aside from the fact that it’s expected to sport a display notch. The Nokia 2.1 got announced back in August this year, and that is the company’s entry-level smartphone, so the Nokia 2.1 Plus probably won’t be much more powerful than the Nokia 2.1, which means that you can expect it to be an entry-level phone as well. The phone will probably ship with a processor from the Snapdragon 400 series of chips, and its display will be smaller than 6 inches. The phone will include 1GB of RAM, most probably, and stock Android will come pre-installed on it, and it will probably ship with Android Go version of Android (Android 8.1 Oreo). An 8-megapixel camera will probably be included on its back, while a 5-megapixel shooter will be placed on the front, same as on the Nokia 2.1.

The Nokia 9 is, needless to say, the company’s upcoming flagship smartphone, and even though a rumor suggested it will launch on December 5, it probably will not. The Nokia 9’s story is quite a long one, as the phone was expected to arrive months ago, but it got postponed by the company, as the company’s Chief Product Officer did not think it’s ready for the market just yet. It was rumored to be postponed until the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2019, but a recent rumor said that HMD Global actually plans to announce it sooner than that. Most people automatically assumed that it will arrive in January, but there’s a slight chance it may launch during this December 5 event. If the Nokia 9 launches on December 5 or January next year, it will be fueled by the Snapdragon 845, which means that it will soon become a flagship with a processor that is not latest and greatest, as the Snapdragon 8150 is expected to start fueling devices early next year, first smartphones will probably sport it in February or March. HMD Global managed to acquire rights to use the PureView brand from Microsoft as well, in the meantime, after the Nokia 9 got postponed, so it remains to be seen if HMD Global actually managed to implement some of that technology in the Nokia 9, though it’s highly unlikely considering how little time they had to do it, which may be yet another reason why this phone will not become official in December.

The Nokia 9 aka Nokia 9 PureView, it remains to be seen what will the company call it in the end, is expected to ship with five cameras on the back, and a number of CAD-based renders already surfaced, showing off its design. The device will be made out of metal and glass, and it will not sport a display notch. The Nokia 9 will include some bezels above and below the display, though, and in addition to shipping with the Snapdragon 845, it’s also expected to include at least 6GB of RAM, and it will be a part of Google’s Android One project, but it remains to be seen if it will arrive with Android 8.1 Oreo or Android 9 Pie.

Impact: It seems pretty certain that HMD Global plans to introduce three smartphones during this event in Dubai, but the Nokia 9 probably won’t be one of them, contrary to what rumors are saying. The Nokia 9 is the company’s upcoming flagship, and if it ends up sporting five cameras as leaks are saying, and quite possibly even the PureView technology, HMD Global would want all eyes on that phone, and will probably make that a sole announcement of one of its events. That’s just a guess, though, anything is possible at this point, so we’ll just have to wait for December 5 in order to find out what exactly is HMD Global planning.

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