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Video Game Review: 'Tetris Effect'

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You’re hurtling through space as rainbow-tinged sparks fly through the air, coupled with twinkling stars and ancient artwork. You’re on the edge of infinity, caught somewhere between exuberance and thoughtful meditation as you immerse yourself in one of the most beautiful games of “Tetris” you’ve ever played.

Tetris Effect” brings the addictive puzzle action of “Tetris” to PlayStation 4 with optional PlayStation VR support. This mesmerizing take on the original game takes the familiar concept of fitting various block shapes together neatly and breathes new life into them as “Tetris Effect” transcends simple reboot territory and transforms into nearly a new game entirely.

Every manipulation of each tetrimino results in a small addition to the music as your controller pulses along to the beat, with rainbow sparkles flooding the blocks below you in an array of shapes that aren’t unlike sugary sprinkles on sour candies.

While completing each stage in “Tetris Effect,” there’s a sense of wonderment and calm that washes over you – suddenly it’s as if you aren’t playing “Tetris” or even a puzzle game, but attempting to solve the mysteries of the universe. Coupled with the sense of intimacy that playing in VR lends to the experience, you’re lost in your own little world, frantically fitting together puzzle pieces in a mad dash to reach a respectable score. This is “Tetris,” reborn, reinvented, and reinvigorated – the best the game has ever been.

Those familiar with Enhance, Inc. CEO Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s previous works like “Rez” and “Child of Eden” will immediately recognize his fingerprints all over the lush visuals and lavish soundscapes, as many of the stages bring the recent VR-enhanced “Rez Infinite” to mind, from the impressive particle effects to the archaic “invention” scribbles and ethereal sea life found in several stages.

There are several modes through which to take it all in. Journey Mode is the game’s “campaign” mode,” with three difficulties: Beginner, Normal, and Expert. From a stunning branching path that resembles celestial peacock feathers, you’ll automatically enter each new level or point your glowing cursor toward each stage manually when returning to the game. This is where you’ll want to begin, both in terms of unlocking additional content and because each area is such an impressive spectacle.

Each stage puts a classic game of “Tetris” front and center, with stunning visuals surrounding it – both to accompany you and distract you, it seems. As the blocks fall into place, it’s your job to fit them together and clear as many horizontal lines as possible. The stages have set amounts of lines that need to be cleared, and when you hit that threshold, they’ll melt straight into the next area, with the blocks that you didn’t clear left over from the previous stage (going in fresh if you can’t clear them is a good idea here.) It can be extremely difficult to properly arrange the falling shapes as the speed ramps up to 10, then 15, and even faster from there, but luckily you have a special weapon at your disposal: the “Zone” power.

The Zone effect will slow time for a short period, letting you piece together and complete lines to buy you time and clear out the burgeoning board before it reaches the top and you have to start all over. Lines completed with Zone active do not count toward each stage’s goal, but do go a long way toward combo bonuses, raising your score and level rank, and letting you pull off massive line-clearing combos, which are some of the most fun things to do in each stage – it feels like a hard-fought victory any time you clear four or more lines at the same time. It’s a small alteration to the formula, but a fantastic one.

As far as visuals and music go, “Tetris Effect” kicks off with the same ephemeral sweetness from its launch trailer with the sea life-themed “Connected (Yours Forever)”, featuring dazzling particle whales and fish as the stage soars and transforms. There’s a wide range of accompanying visuals with unique coloring, effects, and themes. A jazzy urban level punctuated by the sights and sounds of New York City is a striking change from the mystical underwater dolphin area. Fiery apparitions dot the landscape in the “Ritual Passion” level. At one point, there’s a forested area and even a stage that takes you from the desert to the moon, trading camels for spaceships. “Tetris Effect” is unafraid to take players just about everywhere throughout its more than 30 stages.

If you’d rather chill out and explore the stages without the distraction of puzzle-solving, Journey Mode also features a “Theater” option that allows you to view the striking visuals from each stage as they fade seamlessly into the next.

There are, of course, tracks that eclipse and overshadow the others, such as the beautiful “Connected (Yours Forever),” which provides a far more memorable experience than that of, say, Karma Wheel’s subdued “Pulse.” “Always Been But Never Dreamed,” which provides a swirling backdrop for the almost mystical Metamorphosis stage, is an uplifting yet ponderous EDM track that’s simultaneously hopeful and unsettling at times. Some of the tracks feel more like unfinished loops than layered compositions, but their accompanying visuals are memorable and varied, and when a stage comes together with all these individual elements, it truly dazzles.

While you can opt for playing outside of VR, immersing yourself fully is the preferable way to play – you’ll feel much more engaged and in the “zone” with the falling blocks right in front of your face. Playing on a PlayStation 4 Pro does offer crisp visuals, however, when the headset comes off. The only real frustration that comes of playing in either mode is the fact that you must zoom the camera in with the analog sticks for a closer look with every new stage, even if you’re just restarting one. When playing on higher difficulties and speed settings, this can cost you precious moves and time – there should have been a way to set the camera zoom and angle once and leave it as such for the duration of each session.

When you’ve completed the set of stages available in the gorgeous Journey Mode, the game’s multiple Effect Modes offer various ways to explore the world of “Tetris Effect” with different objectives to complete. Of course, there are the classics: Marathon, Ultra, Sprint, and Master modes, which let you challenge yourself with Tetris in traditional ways such as playing with blocks that appear instantaneously or clearing a number of lines as quickly as you can.

Beyond that, there are a number of other categories and playlists grouped under purposes like “Relax” and “Focus.” The Relax grouping is meant to help players chill out with more easygoing stages and challenges, such as Quick Play, which lets you play through any stage with no Game Overs. The Focus category features options like All Clear mode, which tasks you with earning as any All Clears as possible before time runs out.

Meanwhile, the Adventurous category features options like the Countdown, Purify, and Mystery modes, which offer unique approaches to traditional Tetris. Countdown features I-Tetriminos only, Purify asks you to clear as many “Dark Blocks” as possible in three minutes, and Mystery inflicts random status effects throughout a Marathon session. Finally, Orbit lets you explore the globe and check out the avatars of other players currently in-game as well as their levels and PSN IDs. There are 200 avatars to collect, ranging from colorful manta rays and dolphins to celestial blimps and parachutists in categories like Journey, Animal, Space, Other, and Event, which are unlocked during various events held in-game and awarded when certain milestones are met.

Each weekend, a “Weekend Ritual” event will run for 24 hours, and during that time players will be asked to spend time in a specific game in Effect Mode to earn points that add up to a Community Goal. Players will need to meet 100% of the goal during that time, to earn a special in-game avatar for everyone who participated as a reward. It’s meant to spotlight different Effect Modes and encourage players to see what else the game has to offer, which adds even more replayability to a game that’s practically built for you to play and enjoy several times over.

There’s so much to take in with “Tetris Effect” for longtime fans and newcomers alike, from its vast collection of visuals and challenging game modes. When a mind like Tetsuya Mizuguchi puts his creative weight behind a classic like “Tetris,” this is the astonishing result. For “Tetris” fans or those who simply appreciate the melding of music, visuals, and addictive gameplay, “Tetris Effect” is a masterpiece. If you’re looking for your newest puzzle fix, it’s an essential buy.

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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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