Snails and porridge, Cruise and Holmes, Milli and Vanilli – all combinations that you’d never had expected to go together and, for one reason or another, didn’t work out. Another one comes our way in the form of Puyo Puyo Tetris from Sega and Sonic Team… a mashup of two quite different puzzle styles that asks you to leave your sense of story structure at the door, yet retain all your wits to cope with the challenges ahead. The difference with this game and the poor combinations that started this review is that it stands a very good chance of making it all work.
What can we say about Tetris that hasn’t already been said? Probably not much. It’s a falling block game that’s been around for decades and tasks you with tessellating randomly selected falling geometric shapes into complete lines at ever increasing speeds. Puyo Puyo equally has been around for sometime and wants you to match falling coloured circles together in quantities of 4 or more. Aside from dropping the pieces from the top of the screen, the only other thing they have in common is that meeting the match/line criteria makes those pieces disappear from the screen, and provides the core mechanic which is to stop the play area from completely filling up. Puyo Puyo Tetris simply puts the two games into one package and builds a loose reason for you alternating between them, and then trying to cope with them simultaneously as you compete with another player. To win in a 2-player battle you just have to make your opponent fill their screen first; made easier by dropping solid blocks on their stack when you convert 2 or more Tetris lines, or trigger at least a 2 x Puyo combo.
It’s an interesting idea because despite the surface similarities the two need very different approaches. Tetris is all about precision, patience and clearing the lines as quickly as possible; whereas Puyo Puyo favours balancing the different colours to setup chains to clear more than one set at once. The latter tends to be more fast paced and lends itself to those that like an element of random chance in their puzzle games, the former is all about planning and knowing what’s coming 2 or 3 moves ahead. Fortunately if you’ve never experienced either type then there are plenty of tutorials to watch that take you from the absolute basics through to expert moves, and you’ll need all of them to succeed against other people and the extremely well programmed AI.
The meat of the game is in Adventure mode which drives you forward with a story about something or other. It might be my age but I have no clue what it was on about, and couldn’t honestly care either with the pace the exposition comes at you. It’s lucky then that there’s an auto-forward option for the text, or even better, the chance to skip it completely. However, ignore the dialogue and really, really, really bizarre reasons for battling and you’ll be ploughing through a mix of Tetris and Puyo fights as well as one off challenges. Things start of steady but rapidly get hard, and there’s no progression without clearing the previous stage, so be prepared to up your game or hope you can get through with a trial and error approach and a bit of luck.
It ships with a standard arcade mode for one or two players, and aside from the vanilla game types there’s a whole host of others to get into when you get bored. They range from intense Puyo chain battles in Big Bang that need you to drop a couple of blocks to trigger a screen clearing combo, to Swap where every 30 seconds or so the game switches between Tetris and Puyo. That ends up being fun but very difficult to keep track of, even if the alternate game does stay static in the background. Slightly easier to get your head around is Fusion where both Tetriminoes and Puyo’s are dropped in the same stack you’re working on, and Party that has the blocks dropping along with power ups that either aid you or hinder your opponent.
No matter how much you enjoy the AI handing your ass to you on a regular basis, it definitely doesn’t compare to playing against real life competition, and it’s even better if you’re on the same sofa. Everything in single player is available to 2, 3 or 4 players, and it’s easy enough to get stuck in to a round. As you’d expect it’s quick loading and fast to restart a match, so it’s easy to keep things going if you’re in a mode that works best, and simple if things need changing. It really does come into its own when playing against others. If you can’t get someone to share a screen with you then there’s a comprehensive online mode as well with both ranked and free play games to take part in.
Puyo Puyo Tetris’ package is a decent one – there’s a lot of content and a lengthy adventure mode to keep you entertained. There are only one negative I can pull out: it’s the same game over, and over, and over, and over again. Sure there’s a bit of variety in the challenges, but not enough to stop you realising you’re just playing Tetris or Puyo Puyo a lot (and have paid a rather unnecessary premium if you’ve got it on the Switch). This might cause the enjoyment to wane in a fairly short timeframe if you’re solo, though take it from someone who used to play Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo for hours on end… if you’ve got friends in the room, it can be one of the greatest games in the world.
A PS4 review copy of Puyo Puyo Tetris was provided by Deep Silver’s PR team and the game releases on the 28th April for Nintendo Switch (£39.99) and PS4 (£22.99)… yes, that’s right, it’s nearly twice the price for the same game on the Switch!