Released on: April 25 2017 (PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch), February 27 2018 (Windows)
Available Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Windows.
Price: $24.99 CAD ($19.99 US)
Those who’ve ready my Tetris 99 and Tetris Attack/Panel De Pon reviews know that I am a fan of action-puzzle games. For the uninitiated, action-puzzle games are games where players quickly decide where each block goes. The goal is to clear those blocks in the most efficient and, in some cases, aggressive way possible. These games include Tetris (as mentioned earlier) and Tetris Attack/Panel De Pon/Puzzle League. Another well know game series that fits this genre is Puyo Puyo. Some might know Puyo Puyo by a different name (Kirby’s Avalanche and Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, for example.)
In 2016, when I was in Japan, I browsed a game store, wondering what kind of games I could find there. As I checked out the impressive Playstation Vita section, one game caught my eye. It was a crossover between Puyo Puyo and Tetris (aptly named Puyo Puyo Tetris.) I couldn’t believe my eyes. How could two completely different games work when combined? I looked at the back of the box to make sure I understood what I was reading. Sure enough, the example pictures showed one person playing Puyo Puyo, the other playing Tetris. At that point, I had to find out for myself. Thus I picked it up.
With the Nintendo Switch’s release, Puyo Puyo Tetris would get a North American version a month and a half later. Having fond memories of it on the Japanese PlayStation Vita version, I decided to double-dip and get the English, Nintendo Switch version as well. Does Puyo Puyo Tetris set up its blocks for success?
Our story centers around a young magician named Ringo, a young girl who reunited with her friends thanks to the warping magic of Puyo. Suddenly, the same magic that warped Ringo’s friends transports them all to different locations. In Ringo’s case, she finds herself on the Starship Tetra, where she meets the captain of the ship, Tee. He tells her of the strange magic of Tetris blocks and how they are interfering with her world. It is up to Tee and Ringo to set things right in both the Tetris and Puyo Puyo worlds.
At first, the story is cute, a spaceman and a magical schoolgirl going on an adventure to save the universe while meeting wacky characters. My issue with the story mode (called Adventure mode on the main menu) is that it goes on forever. I thought about completing every mission 100 percent, but it got very tedious very quickly.
Those who like colorful graphics (like myself) will appreciate Puyo Puyo Tetris’s aesthetic. Some games are difficult to see when played during the day since the scenery can get dark and muddy. Puyo Puyo Tetris does the exact opposite of that. Even if the sun is shining directly on the screen, the game is still perfectly visible. Where the brightness might become an issue is with people who have sensitive eyes/photosensitivity. It’s never a good idea to play a game to the point where it can cause eye strain. Still, I feel like Puyo Puyo Tetris might bother some people if the brightness setting remains at its default value. However, once the player adjusts the brightness, there shouldn’t be much issue.
As far as the character design goes, they are charming. I like the Puyo Puyo universe characters the best myself. They have that “magic school student” vibe, which I prefer over the Tetris universe’s slightly more rigid designs. That said, I still like the way the Tetris universe characters look.
While the music is nothing I would look up outside of the game, I do like Puyo Puyo Tetris’s soundtrack. It’s high-tempo, happy beats fit well with the frantic puzzle gameplay. When one of the players is about to reach the top of their screen, the music changes to something more urgent. I’m not sure if it meant to put pressure on the losing player on purpose, but it certainly adds to an already stressful situation.
Puyo Puyo Tetris, like the name implies, gives the player the option to play either Puyo Puyo or Tetris. In the Adventure mode, the mission will assign a game mode to the player. When playing battle mode, either versus a computer-controlled opponent or against a friend (either offline or online), the player can select which mode they want to play when selecting their character. No matter which game mode each player plays, the goal remains the same: the first one to reach the top of the screen loses.
It becomes more intricate when one player plays Puyo Puyo and the other Tetris. I’ve seen posts online saying one game has an advantage over the other. At first, I thought Tetris had a slight edge. The only kind of nuisance the Tetris player can receive is when grey lines appear from the bottom to push the player closer to the top (known as garbage lines.) However, the amount of garbage that each player sends to one another is, from what I noticed, even.
This is where Puyo Puyo Tetris impressed me. I consider myself a relatively competent Tetris player. When I play against Puyo Puyo players of the same level, the matches are intense. Either of us can be doing well. Suddenly, one person sends their garbage at the right time, destroying the other player. Two utterly different puzzle games, crossing over beautifully with each other. Who would have thought?
Puyo Puyo Tetris also has loads of single player modes. The player selects which game they’d like to play, then selects their single player mode of choice. There is a lot to choose from, but my favorites are Marathon, where the player sees how many points they can score before reaching the top of the screen, and fusion, where the periodically change between Puyo Puyo and Tetris. These modes make for excellent practice when the player decides to go online to test their skills or tackle the Adventure mode.
Like Puyo Puyo or Tetris separately, the game is more enjoyable when played with two people, whether with a friend, someone online, or against the CPU. This is not to say the game cannot be enjoyed when played solo, but it is more enjoyable when played with a friend.
Speaking of which, if two players have vastly different skill levels, the matches can get crushingly one-side very quickly. There are handicaps that help even things out, but there is always a limit to how much of a handicap one player can receive. When one player has the maximum handicap, and the matches are still one-sided, then playing the game becomes an exercise in futility. Thus, is the nature of competitive games, sadly.
Puyo Puyo Tetris is a fascinating idea that works. Charming characters, upbeat music, and the beautiful combination of two wholly different puzzle games make Puyo Puyo Tetris a worthwhile pick up. I would recommend Puyo Puyo Tetris to those who are fans of either or both. Those wondering about the sequel.. will have to wait until next week.