Puyo Puyo Tetris isn’t exactly new, but you’d be forgiven if you haven’t heard of it. Released for a multitude of platforms back in 2014 in Japan, the quirky puzzle-blender is finally headed to the US on both PS4 and Nintendo Switch. Puzzlers aren’t for everyone, but Puyo Puyo Tetris manages to merge two classic puzzle game titans into one cohesive package, with a generous serving of different modes tacked-on. There’s also a humorous story mode that you’ll probably either love or hate. Let’s get started.
You Don’t Play Tetris?!
Unless you decide to sit through the game’s tutorials off the bat, or dive right into competitive throwdowns with friends, then Puyo Puyo Tetris’ Adventure Mode is likely the first thing you’ll try. If you’re not familiar with either (though it’s hard to imagine not knowing at least Tetris), their basic rules are as follows.
With Tetris, your goal is to strategically place falling blocks and assemble solid rows, at which point they’re eliminated and points are earned. The more times in succession this is achieved, the more points are racked-up via combos, and the rest is history (extended survival before the gamespace is filled being your ultimate goal). With Puyo Puyo, the focus is instead on scoring four-of-a-kind, matching same-color squishy Puyo with each other, and freeing up space in a similar manner, not unlike the 1996 Macintosh title Snood. As you may have guessed, things get hectic when Tetris and Puyo Puyo are merged, yielding a Fusion mode that takes strategy up a notch.
The Adventure mode is instantly amusing, and if you’re a fan of visual novels that don’t take themselves too seriously, wacky anime, or the silly tales that accompany fighting games like Aquapazza, then you’ll surely be right at home. Characters are voice acted (you’ll recognize half the cast almost immediately), and the plot centers on Puyo Puyo battlers being mysteriously transported to outer space (possibly another dimension), where they meet crew members who play Tetris instead of Puyo Puyo. Riveting, I know.
Much like Pokémon or Custom Robo, any and all disputes in this world are solved by battling, and as such your experience will be interspersed with bits of story, bits of battle, rinse, and repeat. It’s a fine formula, and if you get tired of Adventure before it’s over you can always hop out for some exhibition matches instead. The characters are continuously flabbergasted by the notion of someone who doesn’t play Puyo Puyo or Tetris, and are truly gobsmacked at the idea of combining both; it’s a running gag that, while admittedly repetitive, I found chuckle-worthy nonetheless.
Let the Games Begin
The main draw outside of Adventure are the Solo and Multiplayer Arcade, which contain all of Puyo Puyo Tetris’ modes and allow for both individual, same-screen multiplayer, and local wireless matchups. Versus offers the classic exhibitions you’re expecting, in which players face off and select either Tetris or Puyo Puyo. The same style of competition is also available with Fusion, whereas Swap keeps the two puzzle-styles separate but swaps boards in and out with intervaled timing, forcing you to adjust your mindset and strategy on the fly.
As you might imagine this gets hectic fast, and offers some serious laughs (and frequent epic failure) when playing with others. There’s also Party mode, which deals infinite lives and falling items for expanded strategic action, as well as Big Bang, which revolves around dismantling designed presets in record time. All of the modes are fun, but it’s less about which one is best and more about the fact that so many are included, as they provide variety. I personally enjoy Big Bang the most, but that could easily vary by person and there’s unlikely an objective assessment to be had. Aside from Big Bang, I’d probably have to say that simple, classic Versus is what I enjoy the most, with a preference for Tetris over Puyo Puyo.
Variety Is Key
Online play is available for a similar experience sans same-room socializing, while an “Options and Data” menu tracks lifetime stats from the moment you begin for those truly hardcore about their achievement of high scores. There are also in-game achievements and awards to be had, which I can only assume correspond with trophies in some cases on PS4 (though Switch is what was tested for this review). Finally, there’s a Shop tucked away in the Options menu, offering wares in exchange for virtual currency that include alternate voice tracks for Adventure, new art styles for puyos, and new art styles for Tetris tetriminos. It’s harmless and nonessential, but it’s there and sticks with Puyo Puyo Tetris’ running theme of variety. These aren’t microtransactions, so I’m fine with it.
And really, that’s about all. Regarding Switch in particular handheld mode has been a godsend, so much so that I enjoyed the game far more than I likely otherwise would have. This is primarily because it fostered a desire to continuously play in the first place that I doubt would have existed otherwise (for some reason, I’ve just never enjoy puzzling in a sit-down, living room environment). The game also features fairly in-depth lessons, with beginner, advanced, and expert guided tutorials for Tetris, Puyo Puyo, and Fusion alike. If you’d prefer a jump-start or have no idea what you’re doing then each are worthwhile, but learning on the fly in Adventure is enjoyable just the same. It won’t take more than a few hours or so to truly get the hang of the core mechanics at play, and from there it’s merely a matter of how much you enjoy puzzle games.
This may read like a somewhat fluffy assessment, but really there’s little to fault Puyo Puyo Tetris for. If you don’t enjoy puzzle games or can’t stand anime-style plot and voice acting, then you’ll probably be irked by Adventure. But the story here is so harmless and intentionally silly that nitpicking its narrative structure or objective quality would be missing the point entirely. Puyo Puyo Tetris has great personality, delivers two classic puzzle-game staples in both traditional and fused-together styles, and disperses them across half a dozen modes that are all worthwhile (and five of which translate to multiplayer). To me, there's little to dislike.
Still, cost and value are always considerations, and as we saw with Super Bomberman R, the retail variant of the Switch edition is rather overpriced at $39.99. Asking price drops to $29.99 on the eShop and with both versions on PS4, so if you don’t care about jewel cases or own both systems, then it’s clear what to do. That said, after testing the Switch version I do recommend handheld mode wholeheartedly, as I’ve only ever enjoyed puzzling on the go and it bolsters pickup-and-play exactly as needed. Regardless, this is a game that delivers exactly what's described on the tin, and if you enjoy those things, you’ll surely enjoy Puyo Puyo Tetris.