Tetris needs no introduction, but depending on where you are in the world, Puyo Puyo might. While gaining greater international recognition beyond its native Japan where it’s a respected national esport, it can still however do with a bigger push, especially if the little bean buster wants a shot at sharing the stage with games like Street Fighter, Rocket League or Fortnite. So it makes sense for not just a new Puyo Puyo game, but a follow-up to the surprise puzzle mash-up that gave it its worldwide breakthrough.
While the two puzzle styles seem quite different, offering distinct advantages and disadvantages over one another (the current consensus in the community is that Tetris players, with all their fast T-spins and wide combos, have the upper hand), they both work terrifically well as competitive puzzlers as you race to drop, pop and clear the most Puyos or Tetrimino lines and bury your opponent with garbage until they top out. It’s as straightforward as a fighting game, but like a fighting game, also incredibly daunting and esoteric once you start watching a match between high level players putting together eye-watering chains at lightning speed.
Fortunately, newcomers needn’t throw themselves at the mercy of online multiplayer right away. Besides a fairly comprehensive Lessons mode to give you the basics and a few tricks on combos, Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 comes with a fun and substantial single-player Adventure mode to ease you into all the different play styles and modes. The story is quite silly, as our colourful characters find themselves on a mission to save the world through puzzle battles while discovering the meaning of friendship and all that jazz. The map where you move between missions is a little disorientating to navigate, especially as it occasionally branches out or bonus missions might pop up further back from where you currently are – fortunately you can press a button to enter a shortcut where everything’s displayed much more clearly.
It’s a good place to get a handle on all the various game modes beyond just standard Puyo Puyo and Tetris, such as the signature Swap mode, where you swap between both play styles, or the more complicated Fusion mode, where you swap between Tetriminoes and Puyos on the same screen. These are by no means difficult if you’re an experienced player, though I appreciate the option for beginners to lower the difficulty if they’re struggling against any of the challenges. That said, fans and veterans will still want to give Adventure mode a go to try and ace each level with a three-star ranking, while there are also opportunities to aim for a four-star ranking. Suffice to say this is a mode where earning 100% does not strictly mean you’ve actually finished.
You’re also introduced to the all-new Skill Battle mode where you make a team of three characters, each with their own unique skill that can be used during a match. It’s a bit of light RPG mechanics thrown into the puzzle battling, so you can regain health, boost your attack or defence. There’s even skills that can manipulate the pieces you have, such as rearranging your messy Tetriminoes for an easy Tetris clear or turning all your Puyos into the same colour to instantly pop a lot of garbage blocks. Considering the large roster of characters have essentially been little more than cheery mascots up until now, it might incentivise you to mix things up a bit, especially as some have skills that only work for Tetris or Puyo Puyo.
Unfortunately, I’m unable to really gauge just how in-depth Skill Battles is and whether it will prove a worthwhile addition to the rulesets where most of the hardcore players just stick to the fundamentals like ‘Puyo Tsu’. With Adventure mode only having a small fraction be Skill Battles, I rarely ever needed to use my skills, since I’m already capable of pulling off powerful chains that instantly KO an opponent anyway. It’s ultimately something that will need to be put through its paces when the game launches.
The good news is that Sega has planned plenty of free post-launch content to support the game, including new characters, which will hopefully provide more options in Skill Battles. It also comes just in time for the new console generation, so PS4 or Xbox One players can upgrade to the next-gen versions for free, even if you’re probably going to scratch your head to think just what next-gen features a puzzle game can make use of.
The long-term is still in its online mode, where you can now more easily jump into a friend’s game, while ranked play has been split into different leagues. For Puyo Puyo or Tetris mains worrying about balance, they can opt to just focus on their respective leagues, although the classic Puzzle League is still available featuring all modes (though players can still filter what modes they get matched for), as well as the aforementioned Skill Battles league.
For newbies afraid of getting stomped by a veteran Japanese player from the off, there’s also an option to start each league with lower points, meaning you’ll hopefully match with similarly lower skilled players or will win more points when you beat a higher ranking players (you can however still opt to leave an unwanted match-up, even if it’s a bit unsporting). Failing that, you can always just play solo modes for practice, local multiplayer that supports up to four players, or attempt the classic solo challenges like Tetris’ Ultra and Sprint modes and see where you place on the leaderboards.
The one bugbear is that although cross-gen play will be supported between PS4 and PS5 players or Xbox One and Series X|S players, there won’t be cross-play between platforms. Considering this is a worldwide launch (although PC is due early next year), a first for the series, and that it’s across multiple platforms and generations, it’s disappointing not to see this being implemented when cross-platform play is becoming the norm, especially with mainstream online games like Fortnite, Rocket League and Brawlhalla.