For many, Puyo Puyo is an obscure curio that masqueraded under both the Sonic and Kirby franchises when it first ventured out of Japan. Oddly enough, it wasn’t until Sonic Team took the developer reigns that it would release overseas largely unaltered, yet with each subsequent version they strove to freshen up the gameplay. The idea then of fusing Puyo Puyo with the internationally renowned, and wildly successful, Tetris was a cash cow just waiting to happen.
Right off the bat, you can pick up and play Puyo Puyo Tetris in each of its multiple modes. Versus allows for players to choose for themselves whether they play Puyo Puyo or Tetris, and fighting an opponent who has also independently chosen one of the two games. This is about as basic as Puyo Puyo Tetris ever gets and is relatively accessible, with tutorials for each available to teach the basics of tetromino block or Puyo dropping.
Other game modes ramp up the craziness to eleven. Swap randomly selects which game both players starts in, swapping to the other game with its independent board after around 30 seconds. Fusion on the other hand has both types of pieces falling into the same board, each interacting in their own ways. These two are by far the most fun to play, keeping you on your toes the entire time and not allowing you a moment to breathing, yet still providing a somewhat fair challenge.
While these are the main game modes, there are some even more outlandish ones available. Party is the same as Versus, except that power-ups can also be triggered upon clearing Puyos or Tetris rows, while Big Bang puts both players in a “Fever” state where they need to clear as many easily clearable configurations as possible in a short time frame.
If you’re looking for a game to play with up to three friends, sat in the living room or using the Switch’s portable mode, then this colourful, inoffensively presented game is a great proposition. While Big Bang is somewhat easier than the others, all have their high points – whether you just want a good old-fashioned game of Tetris, or you would like to spice things up with the other modes, the choice is there and can certainly lead to a fun gaming session or two.
Playing online though is a completely different kettle of fish. The game has been out on numerous platforms in Japan since 2014, and they even have a head start on Switch – our review platform, with the game also coming to Western PS4’s. Right now, this means that you’ll likely be playing against people whose skills seem godlike in comparison. Playing with friends is possible, so there’s always that, but one look at the Watch Replays is enough to make one suspect cheating. This, however, is almost certainly not the case.
For those looking for solo thrills it’s worth noting that Puyo Puyo Tetris’ Adventure Mode is extremely taxing. Even against the AI, playing the single player adventure mode has moments of major annoyance. This is largely to do with the mild changes to encourage aggressive play in Tetris when playing against an opponent. Aside from the usual blocks, combining four lines at once to make a Tetris, and so on, you are also encouraged to build up your play area with the potential to make “Back-to-back” line connections for more damage to the opponent’s board. On top of this, spinning pieces the right way can potentially make it fit into an otherwise impenetrable gap, giving hefty bonuses.
For someone whose experience is largely a single player with no prior competitive Tetris under his belt, this was a tough adjustment. I’d be racking up points like nobody’s business, yet somehow still lose badly because the opponent has somehow made a significant comeback. I didn’t have this issue anywhere near as much whenever Puyo Puyo was involved, however I noticed the AI pulling off tricks that were mastered by those with Replays, so one imagines that it’s part of the learning curve.
Losing multiple times on the same stage in Adventure Mode will generate a message saying “Use Help Mode” which actually means “would you like to skip this stage?” Given the game’s extremely high skill ceiling, it’s a godsend for those looking to just finish the game, but those wishing to unlock skins will need to consistently win. I’d much rather have AI difficulty modifiers than one flat hard difficulty that insultingly gives you the option to skip if you’re not good enough.
In fact, in my entire time with Adventure Mode, the only levels I skipped were the Player vs CPU levels, most of which were Tetris vs Tetris, while I managed to complete all the challenges. There are a lot of levels, so game length isn’t a major factor here, but honestly unless you like the Puyo Puyo characters, despite their grating voice acting and two-dimensional characterisation, there isn’t much beyond the challenges set forth before you.
Honestly, the best way to experience Puyo Puyo Tetris is to gather some friends and play a local multiplayer session. There’s a plethora of modes available and it’s a blast to have people play each and every one of them. Despite single player and Online ranked matches being utterly relentless, Puyo Puyo Tetris is still a fun party game with a wholehearted recommendation nonetheless.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch