Tetris and Puyo Puyo are games that rely on similar fundamentals. Clearing lines in Tetris is easy for anyone, but consistently clearing stacks of four and maximising a score takes planning and quick thinking. Popping a group of four Puyos is simple too, but creating an elaborate chain of combos to bury one’s opponent swiftly is a skill that takes development. Each game can be played in an accessibly simple fashion, yet rewards clever planning and immediate strategizing.
Puyo Puyo Tetris, then, is an ambitious child of well-considered parents. Where comparable puzzle games build themselves entirely on top of a repeatable puzzle system, Puyo Tetris lays two distinct foundations, mixes them together in some places, and branches out in others. Classic Tetris and Puyo Puyo modes are present here, but more pertinent are the ways they’re combined. Puyo Puyo Tetris (PPT) doesn’t just bring two accomplished puzzle games together but explores the ways they can serve, elevate and complicate one another.
PPT’s least elaborate mode is Versus. Here, opponents battle in the gameplay type of their choosing; Puyo or Tetris. 2-4 competitors strive to be the last to lose, clearing their board to survive, while making their opponent’s games as hard as possible. Clearing lines or Puyos sends garbage to the opposition, the better the clear, the more garbage they have to combat. Having to deal with garbage disrupting any strategies means Versus relies on contingency plans as much as the base approach, encouraging a balance between quick and thoughtful play. The tides of battle turn quickly when taking the time to set up means allowing opponents the same opportunity.
Similar to Versus is Swap mode, having each competitor play both Puyo Puyo and Tetris, switching between the two separate games regularly. Taking care of two separate boards is stressful at times, but switching to the opposite game type can often be a saving grace. The routine swapping here creates a comfortable flow that allows for dynamic battles wherein separate parties are leading on different fronts. Surviving through those last few drops before switching and executing on a previously set-up combo gave me some tremendously satisfying victories.
Taking the mash-up concept a step further is Fusion mode, having players manage Puyo and Tetris simultaneously on the same board. Tetrominos sink to the bottom of Puyos, meaning Fusion essentially comes down to Puyo on top of Tetris. This is one of the trickier scenarios to get a grasp of; your Puyo set-up can be totally misaligned by a Tetromino falling beneath it. The complication in strategy means games often come down to slap-dash Puyo popping atop near-standard Tetris stacking, but, of course, the gradual mastery of planning and predicting accordingly pays off heavily.
In the way of sillier, less principled play, PPT offers Party and Big Bang. Party adds power-ups to Versus mode, diverting the focus from dumping garbage on foes to inhibiting their play in more annoying ways. Disallowing them from rotating a piece or having their vision reduced to a spotlight can significantly hinder their play, meaning trying to clear power-up pieces becomes the priority over immaculate set-ups. Pair with the fact that filling a board brings along a fresh one rather than qualifying a failure, and many of PPT’s strongest elements are absent here. Playing for a higher score means more elaborate play is still valuable, but power-ups are too easy to use and so annoying to suffer from that racing to use them becomes the focus of Party. Big Bang is equally dismissible, seeing players racing to set off prepared chains of Puyos or clear lines of Tetris with particular Tetrominos. Racing through combos is a blast at first, but the limited number of challenges to encounter means things get repetitive quickly, with most matches being won by a minuscule margin.
Each of these modes can be played with up to four players locally, or online with friends or randomly selected to play against strangers. The online suite here is somewhat rudimentary but doesn’t lack anything you might expect. Online play offers ranks to climb with consecutive wins, plus some ‘greetings’ to communicate to opponents pre-match. Not a lot, but more than enough. Games run smoothly online for the most part, with some occasional but irregular hiccups.
For more conventional play, the single player Challenge modes offer more traditional play. Classic single player Puyo and Tetris modes are available here. Better yet, Endless Puyo Puyo and Tetris Marathon modes, as well as Fusion mode, are accessible before even reaching the game’s main menu, making starting up a quick game an immediate process. Disappointingly, there’s no endless Tetris mode here; only the standard Marathon mode. If you want to clear lines beyond level 15, you’re out of luck.
The most notably peculiar feature of Puyo Puyo Tetris is Adventure Mode. A story of Tetris and Puyo worlds colliding is told here, featuring characters from previous Puyo games alongside some new Tetris-oriented folks. The story is told through stills of characters interacting via text bubbles, while score and time goals in each of PPT’s modes make up each level. It isn’t a surprise that the story mostly runs in circles, not really going anywhere despite its grand scale insisting so. What is a surprise, is that every character is fully voiced – and notably well. The silly dialogue of the extensive selection of rambunctious characters is fun, even if the quirky peculiarity of each one becomes tiring.
Bright, striking interfaces and characters help make PPT a joyous game to play. The sharp menus make navigation simple and exciting, while the polished aesthetic throughout keeps everything feeling snappy, vibrant and made with care. Customisable Puyos and Tetrominos are an excellent addition, alongside expandable voice lines for characters (who can become irritatingly repetitive), but the shortage of options is a letdown.
Puyo Puyo Tetris is an extensively featured puzzle game with so many ways to play on your own, with friends, or online. The diversity included makes it an excellent package for Tetris or Puyo Puyo, as well as equally commendable new mixes. While its story is a somewhat pointless romp and the customization falls a little short, the strong visual design and tight mechanics throughout are evidence of a game made with care.