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Tetris Effect: The Kotaku Review

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Tetris Effect takes the pure, near-perfect game design of the classic puzzle game and injects a cocktail of hallucinatory visuals mixed with a sublime soundtrack. It’s a refreshing, modern update to a classic with an optional virtual reality component and more than anything, it’s also the kind of game that I think we desperately need right now.

The core foundation of Tetris remains mostly untouched. Blocks fall, and you use them to set up stacks of complete rows of lines to clear from the screen. It’s a beautiful composition of construction and destruction that makes your brain fire on all cylinders. With Tetris, if you take a second to glance at your phone or answer a quick question, you can ruin a good stack that could prove to be nearly impossible to fix in the long run. And with Tetris Effect, applying that level of intense focus rewards you with a rich sensory experience, too.

The game’s level Aurora Peak on Expert mode.

The game is also playable using PlayStation VR, which takes things to a different plane. The game is no longer trapped in the flat rectangle of my TV but envelops me. The Tetris board still stays in front of you, but the scenery and effects curve around into your peripheral vision. As I played, I drifted past New York City’s streetlights to the the top of a snowy mountain with a view of the Northern Lights. We’ve all either seen, read or heard about immersive VR. With Tetris Effect, removing all forms of distraction like ambient light or my cat’s awkward stares, amplifies my focus even more. It is the perfect marriage of two favorite games of mine, the block-dropping Lumines and the trippy musical journey Rez. That’s natural, given that the lead visionary behind those games, creative director Tetsuya Mizuguchi, is the main one behind Tetris Effect and has been wanting to make something like this for over 15 years.

My interview with Mark MacDonald and Tetsuya Mizuguchi about the long road leading up to Tetris Effect.

Even if you don’t have PlayStation VR, killing the lights in the room and throwing on a solid pair of headphones still gets the job done. With a phenomenal score by Hydelic, the same team that made the music for Rez Infinite’s Area X, you get a great musical experience that benefits from high quality headphones or speakers. And if you’ve got a PS4 Pro and a fancy 4K TV, Tetris Effect runs at 60 frames per second and looks stunning.

In addition to the particle effects and synthesizers, there are some gameplay changes under the hood. The game’s Journey mode offers players 27 uniquely-themed levels that all feature original songs. A level called Forest Dawn, for example, surrounds the Tetris board inside of a forest just as rain begins to fall. Another starts you off inside of a space shuttle and ends with you orbiting the Earth with satellites. One thing I loved about Journey mode is how the speed of the falling blocks will pick up as the music’s tempo increases. If you actually manage to push through to the next section, the speed of the falling blocks slows. This allowed me to take a breath after pushing past what I thought were my limits. The game’s difficulty ebbs and flows along with the music and its corresponding visuals. Mizuguchi, the game’s creative director, told me that that flow is “like daily life.” I love that.

Just like my own daily life, sometimes I need time to collect my thoughts or approach a problem from another angle. Clearing lines and landing combos fills your “Zone” meter, which gives you the ability to do just that. So when I find myself stuck in a sticky situation with too many errors on the board, or when I want to rack up points, activating zone freezes the rate at which Tetrominoes fall. Clearing lines in zone mode pushes them down to the bottom and brings up anything trapped underneath so the player can fix it. It’s a mechanic that can provide a lifeline to newcomers or a way to rack up points for Tetris masters.

There is a certain level of peace that the game brought to me after playing it in VR. It boiled down to one moment. I was playing the game and was initially smiling at the trippy visuals and incredible sound design. After a few minutes, I could feel myself calming. My muscles relaxed and my breathing slowed down. I remember taking a deep breath and letting out a long sigh. I forgot about my day or what horrific thing was in the news and just allowed myself some time to sink deeper.

Tetris Effect allows me to be selfish in that way. I can tune the world out and focus on completing this simple task in front of me while the vibration of the controller matches the notes ringing in my ear drums and the glow from the visuals. Like one of the game’s best songs says: “it’s all connected.”

What the classic colors look like in action.

If you would rather play what Mark MacDonald from the game’s production team calls “Tetris-ass Tetris,” purists will be happy to hear that you can customize your experience a bit and even tone down the visual effects. There’s an option to use standard colored Tetrominoes in favor of the custom-themed ones for each level, if you find the game’s custom colors too distracting.

Beyond Journey mode, the game also offers 15 “Effect Modes” that range from the classics like Marathon to Focus modes that task the player with completing objectives like clearing specific lines. Focus made me use pieces in ways I’ve never thought of before. For times when I might wanna just cool out and play some low-risk Tetris, there are also Relax modes that even remove fail states. The last category of modes is called Adventurous and features a mode where you need to survive random effects that are thrown at you like huge blocks or playing the game upside down, which, surprisingly enough, my brain got used to over time.

I do wish that there was a mode that let me play around with the game’s spiffy new Zone mechanic that shows up in Journey. I’m happy to go back into the main game to play around with it, but I would have loved a mode that challenged my zone skills or taught me different ways to utilize them.

Another thing missing from the game is the unfortunate absence of multiplayer. Despite the lack of direct multiplayer modes, there are still leaderboards and the option to unlock avatars that you can show off in the Effect Mode menu where you, your friends and other players orbit the Earth with your corresponding points levels listed. There are also chances of getting rare event-based avatars that Enhance says can be unlocked during 24-hour “Weekend Rituals,” by working together to complete specific goals like reaching a designated score total for the entire community.

Hi, mom and dad. We out here.

Some might consider $40 for Tetris to be too steep of a price for a game that is often looked at like a cheap toy. But Tetris Effect is also trying so many new things with those pure mechanics by continuing to evolve what is an already meditative experience. Sure, if you’re competitive and want to stick to Tetris: The Grand Master or even NES Tetris, go right ahead. Tetris Effect doesn’t replace those. It complements them.

Tetris Effect’s Journey mode even has a really subtle narrative for you to either absorb or passively appreciate as you play along. That subtle narrative doesn’t come out through voice-acted cutscenes, but through song lyrics and the accompanying visuals. The game’s first level shows the Earth looming off in the distance, sea life made up of glowing particles swimming around me, while a beautiful voice sings “We’re all connected in this life. Don’t you forget it.” It’s a beautifully poetic reflection on life that took me on a journey throughout the universe and reminded me that I’m just as much a part of it. It’s equal parts therapeutic and daunting. The ending even made me a little emotional, and I’d never expect that from Tetris. For newcomers or people who haven’t played in a while, it’s a fantastic place to jump back in.

In recent weeks, I’ve played and enjoyed three big-budget open world titles that are different flavors of the tried-and-true power fantasy or the heightened tension of yet another bloody battle royale. It’s nice to see that a puzzle game asks me to relax and tune the world out for a bit. And after hearing about atrocities on a weekly basis, sometimes the last thing I want to do in a game is virtually fight someone or pick up a fucking gun to relax. It’s a game that checks in on me and reminds me that while the world might seem like it’s falling apart, there is still beauty to be found and a goal worth continuing to work towards. I think that’s something we can all use right now.

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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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