Tetris Tips for Dummies

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#1 Posted by xanadu (2040 posts) -

So I got that Tetris Effect. And I am bad at that Tetris Effect. Needles to say, this is essentially my first Tetris game. It's been a dark horse of my gaming knowledge for far too long and I felt like Tetris Effect was more than a good enough excuse to finally sink my time into one of these games. I was just barely able to get past the first two chunks in beginner mode and I thought It'd be cool if some Tetris Pros in the community could lend their knowledge to us newbies. Here's some questions I have right off the bat:

Are there any specific pieces you should always be saving? Are there certain pieces that should always be matched up with each other? Sometimes I feel the need to clear lines one at at time or multiple at time without skipping any lines, that seems to backfire on me sometimes. When should you know to give up on a section of lines and move on to another?

That's all I can think about right now but any other tips would be more than welcomed. Thanks duders!

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#2 Edited by dgtlty (1222 posts) -

Glad I'm not the only one who is terrible at this. And I thought I was alright at Tetris. Slow speed is one thing, but many levels in Journey Mode seem to have a point when the speed ramps up to a degree where there's no way I can keep up and it's essentially game over. Happens on both Easy and Normal.

The strangest thing is there seems to be no decent video guides on how to play one of the greatest games of all time. If anyone knows of a detailed guide please share. I understand what to do to maximise score but a video that explains how to do this and what to look for would be greatly appreciated.

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#3 Posted by imhungry (1115 posts) -

Not a pro by any means but the various versions of Tetris games over the years probably add up to one of my most played games of all time so I'll answer what I can. Keep in mind most of what I say is from a perspective of scoring as high as possible though it'll all still be somewhat applicable for pure survival in the Journey mode.

The simplest way to get better at Tetris for most people is gonna be stacking your pieces in such a way to create a 'well', which is leaving a single row empty to drop vertical I pieces in, ideally getting a Tetris (4-line clear, highest scoring single-move) at the same time. What this means, then, is that your I-piece becomes the go-to piece to save because you can swap it out with a piece you have nowhere to put and instead get a Tetris, and (more importantly) gives you the chance to instantly get a 8-line clear with Zone the next time a I-piece comes up while you have one saved.

If you aren't playing with a well, then the T-piece is your new go-to save piece for its versatility in keeping combos going or simply helping you survive by clearing lines or cleaning up your stack. Learn to T-spin, which is basically the act of rotating a piece after it's hit the bottom of your stack so that it rotates into a gap it couldn't reach on the way down. It sounds confusing but it's fairly simple once you get the hang of it. This will help a lot in helping you to fix the gaps that come with the inevitable mistake.

All that being said, the most important thing I can say about the hold piece is that it's there to be used. If you currently have a piece that can't be placed neatly and have a I-piece in storage that can be placed, swap them for now! Be mindful of what you have in storage so that you can bust it out when you see a good spot for it. Don't religiously hold on to I-pieces either though, if you have 4 rows ready to be cleared and an I-piece comes down, just drop it in the well instead of holding it (unless you're planning for a big Zone combo I guess).

There aren't really any pieces that always match together per se because the situation with your stack is always changing. There are certain patterns that will become clear as you keep playing, like horizontal z-pieces allowing for horizontal reverse-Ls to go on top, but generally the important thing is just to be aware of what the top of your stack looks like at all times.

The one thing that will help you immensely is getting used to looking at the 'next' queue so that you can plan where to drop your current piece so that you don't get stuck on your next piece. This will probably be really overwhelming if you aren't comfortable with the general playing though, so the next best thing would be to try and maintain the top row of your stack to be of a design where you always have a spot to place each shape. This means you'll want to have 2 flat rows somewhere for square-pieces and then uneven areas of different orientations to accommodate the other types of pieces. Generally you can't account for all shapes at any one time, but try to design it in such a way to minimize the pieces that will cause trouble for you. Ideally, you'll eventually get comfortable enough to look 2 or more pieces ahead so you can narrow the scope of pieces you have to design for at any given time.

The most general piece of advice I can give to help you always have a place to put your piece is that if you're stacking pieces with a well, then try to keep your second column(right next to the well) 2-3 rows shorter than the third column(next to the second column). This allows you the freedom to put every piece except either the s or z piece(depending on which side your well is on) into that 2 column gap and not only clear lines but maintain the neat well. It's all well and good to wait for I-pieces to come to maximise your score but sometimes you just need to clear lines, especially in a survival format like Journey.

I ended up writing a whole bunch and reading it back, it's probably incredibly unclear for beginners without pictures to illustrate. I think I'll write up a short blog later when I can take some screenshots to better illustrate the points in the spoiler so feel free to ignore everything up there and just take these 3 general tips for now that'll help immensely in the long run.

1. Learn to rotate both ways. It took me so long to break my muscle memory for only rotating one way, so you're at an advantage if you're just starting out now! Practice using both rotation directions, it will help you immensely when things speed up as well as for fixing your mistakes with T-spins. Utilizing both directions lets you get your pieces in place much faster, even if it might not seem like it.

2. Try to play with the next piece in mind. I get that there's a lot of things happening at once and it can be pretty overwhelming, but if you can get into the habit of even just looking at the next immediate piece in the queue and factoring that decision into where you place your current piece, it'll help you immensely because you'll get stuck on a piece far less often. At worst, it can help you to form a plan to minimize damage from the inconvenient piece that's about to appear. Practice doing this on slower speeds if you're having trouble, just get in the habit of glancing at the next piece as your current piece appears.

3. Just play and have fun! It's cliche, but accumulating experience is probably the most important thing for Tetris. You'll eventually start identifying common patterns as you keep playing, so much so that it'll bleed over into real life as the game's title references.

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#4 Posted by Pepsiman (2815 posts) -

Semi-competent Tetris player here. (I'm no TGM grand master type you'll see at GDQ, but I can definitely hold my own online.) Tetris at its core is less about knowing what to do with specific pieces all the time so much as it is being able to recognize the connective relationships they can have with one another, as well as how to react in general types of situations that will arise as time goes on in your average Tetris session. There are certainly high-level meta theories about how you should be building up your "well" of pieces, as it's commonly called, but they're somewhat contingent on how individual games are played since different versions have adopted different rules at a granular level over the years. All of this is to say, any advanced strategies you seek out should only really be done for the specific flavor of Tetris you want to play, as not all tips and strategies apply across every Tetris game ever.

So back to the two things I was talking about before. When I say it's good to recognize the "connective relationships" between pieces, I basically mean the different ways that each piece type can interact with one another to create spaces and opportunities for other pieces to slot together nicely. In practical terms, this means paying attention to your well as it grows and examing the edges for opportunities to slot in potential pieces as they appear. This also means that you should memorize the shapes each piece adopts as they're being rotated so that after a while, you immediately know what sort of options are available to you positionally as soon as a piece appears in your queue without having to manually rotate it and reassess the board. Most pieces only have two shapes at most that they can adopt while being rotated, with the J and L pieces being the big exceptions and taking a little more time to get down pat. Eventually, doing all of this will allow you to start planning ahead for how you want to fill out your well before you even take control of a given piece in the queue.

Learning these rotational shapes as you keep playing more and more rounds will also help you recognize different situations where you can safely clear, say, two lines from the board or three lines, something you need to eventually be comfortable with doing when needed so that you don't end up screwing yourself over while waiting for an I piece to appear so you can get tetrises. At a more advanced level, learning these rotations will also help pieces navigate black space between pieces that you'd normally be blocked from entering, but that's not something you should concern yourself with learning in the very beginning. And more broadly speaking, learning these rotations and the possible relationships that each piece can have with each other will give you the insight to get out of troublesome situations quickly and reliably, such as when you have too big of a piece buildup in part of the screen.

In terms of when to hold a piece, my general rule of thumb is to hold a piece when possible if it either won't make a useful contribution to my current well (ie: won't cause any major gaps or start a pileup of pieces). There are also times when I hold a piece when I'm specifically trying to set up a particular shape on the board or when I'm trying to clear out a few lines in a specific way, but generally I use it as a defensive move myself. Sometimes this'll back me into a corner, especially when the reserved piece is the same as the one I'm trying to swap out, but the system is designed to cause that to happen, so at that point, you've just got make the best of what you have.

Really, in a nutshell, Tetris isn't about playing a perfect game so much as it is one that tests how you'll react to mistakes and inevitable gaps in the board that arise along the way. A lot of the skills I've described are things you'll naturally pick up over time as you play the game. In my opinion, most anyone can become a decent Tetris player with enough practice, as there are only a handful of core skills you need to build up and the game is designed in such a way that you'll intuitively catch onto them with experience. For what it's also worth, I think a lot of "modern" Tetris games, while very well designed, can be bad about teaching you the absolute core fundamentals of the game because of the additional gameplay flourishes they've introduced over the years and I suspect that Tetris Effect may be the same to an extent because of its own unique wrinkles that it introduces to the formula. So, what I tend to recommend to people who want to just focus on honing their basic Tetris skills without needing to worry about stuff like the hold system is to play one of the more basic older installments like the Game Boy one or one of the simpler variants that you can play for free on Tetris Friends. Then, as you get more and more comfortable with how the pieces interact with each other fundamentally, you can slowly start to play more advanced versions and slow incorporate those additional features into your overall strategy. Like I said above, each version of Tetris plays at least a little bit differently, so there can be a bit of an adjustment period as you switch between games when it comes to, say, how fast pieces drop, how quickly that speed increases, and how much time you have to rotate a piece once it's on top of the board (if at all), but playing a simpler version of the game will overall give you skills that can be transferred between versions.

Long post after a really long week at work, so hopefully that makes at least some sense. Good luck! It's a beautiful game to play in most any incarnation! c:

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#5 Posted by Shindig (4914 posts) -

It took me a while to realise that a clean, empty well is bad for score.

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#6 Posted by washablemarkers (149 posts) -

I think my first piece of advice would be to not care about the score at all, just try to last as long as you can. If possible, play a very slow version of Tetris where the speed doesn't ramp up so quickly. I'd recommend The New Tetris on N64, which is incredibly slow compared to Tetris Effect.

Once you get the basics of how the pieces fit, focus more on keeping a clear board than trying to build them up. Again, this isn't necessarily going to be great for your score, but it's a lot easier to try and keep one or two rows clear as opposed to stacking up a huge tower that may leave you open for error.

Lastly, try to get in the habit of planning your rotations. Look at where the piece is going to go first, and then rotate it to fit, as opposed to looking at the piece first as it falls. As far as holds, remember that space can also be used to swap out an annoying piece, which may come in handy later.

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#7 Edited by xanadu (2040 posts) -

Some solid advice in here, thanks everyone!

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#8 Posted by WickedCobra03 (2299 posts) -

This is a freaking awesome rundown!

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#9 Posted by Fram (1852 posts) -

T-spins (mentioned above) can keep blocks from locking into place for quite a while, even after they've hit the bottom of the playfield. By rotating the piece and pressing left or right you can "walk" the piece over messy terrain and fit it into a better position. This helps mitigate some of the panic of the blocks coming down at high speed; you actually have a fair bit more decision-making time that it seems!

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#10 Edited by vinone (325 posts) -

Man I wish I could better put Tetris tips and strategies into words. I beat the journey mode on expert without a game over and I'm top 100 in journey total high score on expert right now and I probably shouldn't be. (yes, I'm bragging a little) I only rotate blocks clockwise and I don't T-spin so not only should I not score as well as I do but I feel like I'm the last person who should give advice on Tetris to anyone but here I go!

For saving blocks as a beginner I've always thought the T-pieces are the best to save. There's almost always a place for them to fit so if some real trash comes your way and things are near the top they can save your ass. Eventually start saving I-pieces and leaving a column open for the very satisfying Tetris. Don't be afraid to leave gaps if nothing fits. Think about where it fits, but doesn't fit, best and don't panic trying to find the perfect spot. It sucks and it feels like losing (to me) but you just have to let it happen sometimes. Building up a huge stack just so the puzzle fits together waiting for the piece you need will only hurt you most of the time. I've found myself trying to keep two columns next to each other on an even level for the inevitable square piece that will fuck everything up. Keep an eye on what's next and try and use that to help with your current piece. This is kind of like running before you catch the ball in football though and will fuck you up sometimes. Don't be like me, and learn to rotate blocks both ways. With that said, if something isn't where you want it when it hits the bottom keep pressing the rotate button fast and it'll keep spinning and just trying and force it to the place you want. This is KEY to newer Tetris. It'll let you spin it at the bottom for a very long time while you try to place it and not drop the next piece.

Exclusive stuff to Tetris Effect: I heard someone say you can turn off some effects. This actually might be a good idea for a beginner. Honestly they can really get in the way of playing and learning Tetris. I think they're beautiful and immersive and the game's not the same without them, but for someone learning Tetris they might be a bit much. Also if you ever get a full zone meter for now use that as a way to slow down the game and really learn what pieces fit together. Don't worry about getting 20 lines cleared or anything just yet. It's also a really good way to save yourself if things are getting too clustered and you need to clear some stuff. Maybe go play marathon or some of the other Effect Modes where the game is a bit more basic. Purify starts you with a kind of messed up board and might be a good way to learn how to clear some of that. That's been my favorite Effect mode so far.

Other than that, just keep playing and have fun and it'll start to come to you with time. You'll just start to place pieces where they need to go to compliment the next piece and you'll enter that flow like state people talk about. I mean, you're playing the perfect video game.

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#11 Posted by bakoomerang (186 posts) -

@imhungry said:

1. Learn to rotate both ways. It took me so long to break my muscle memory for only rotating one way, so you're at an advantage if you're just starting out now! Practice using both rotation directions, it will help you immensely when things speed up as well as for fixing your mistakes with T-spins. Utilizing both directions lets you get your pieces in place much faster, even if it might not seem like it.


I've been playing Tetris since the OG Gameboy and I'm fairly decent at it, but I never learned to rotate both ways and now it's reeeeal hard to break the habit. It really is a big help when the speed starts cranking up, so getting used to it early on is definitely recommended.

It's funny, until pretty recently I didn't really get it when someone would say "I'm bad at Tetris" because on the surface it seems like there isn't really much to get - you just fit the shapes together - and dealing with the increased speed is something that will come with practice. But then I played Puyo Puyo Tetris, and having never played a Puyo game before I found I was absolutely terrible at it despite it also being a pretty simple concept. In Tetris, I can build my stack and plan for Tetrises comfortably, but when it comes to Puyo I just cannot get my brain to grasp what I need to do to build combos. I can build a simple 1 or 2 combo, but whenever I manage to get anything beyond that it feels like a large part of it was luck, even if I was trying to build for it. So yeah, I have a new found appreciation for people just starting out with either game!

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#12 Posted by pauljeremiah (225 posts) -

Great advice guys, thanks so much.

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#13 Edited by stinger061 (473 posts) -

I’ve played small amount of various Tetris games over the years but this one has shown me how awful I really am at it. Took about 8 attempts to beat area 2 in journey mode. Will definitely apply the tips here going forward. Roatating both ways feels like the big thing right now as I waste so much time using just the one button

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#14 Posted by Seikenfreak (1522 posts) -

Beat Journey mode on Easy last night. Barely beat the last level. I wish there was a way to cap the speed. Once it hits 10, I'm pretty much done for. I did hit 11 for a second at one point. If I recall, 9 seems about the right speed for hectic but doable and fun for me.

Kinda ruins the game for me because I just want to chill and play. Not sure what the difference is with Normal but I would assume the speed can get even faster? In which case I'm not interested.

And I will always rotate one-way.

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#15 Posted by Sahalarious (770 posts) -

Just beat the last stage on normal after about 10 tries, it was NOT easy. People say that a clean empty well is bad for score, probably, but I just focus on survival haha. I didn't make it through my first try on expert but hopefully with time i become some sort of matrix boy

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#16 Posted by BoboBones (261 posts) -

First thing I did was turn on the Traditional color scheme, so that way I could easily tell which piece is which just by color.

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#17 Posted by vinone (325 posts) -

@seikenfreak said:

Beat Journey mode on Easy last night. Barely beat the last level. I wish there was a way to cap the speed. Once it hits 10, I'm pretty much done for. I did hit 11 for a second at one point. If I recall, 9 seems about the right speed for hectic but doable and fun for me.

Kinda ruins the game for me because I just want to chill and play. Not sure what the difference is with Normal but I would assume the speed can get even faster? In which case I'm not interested.

I haven't played easy and I only played normal during the weekend demo but on expert you need to clear more lines per level to move on and I've seen the speed up to at least 15 but I'm normally to busy Tetris-ing at that point to really know for sure what the speed is at it's fastest points.

Now that you've beaten all of the levels you can go play most of the event modes on them though. So that's a good way to chill. I was playing Marathon on the hot air balloon level last night and it still cheers for you near the end and it's great.

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