Pop and Block
Despite minor flaws, Puyo Puyo Tetris is a fantastic package, bursting at the seams with every imaginable way to play any combination of the two games.
- Publisher: Deep Silver/Sega
- Developer: Sonic Team
- Platform: PS4, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
- Availability: Out Now
- Price: £19.99 (PS4), £34.99 (Switch)
Everyone has played Tetris. Even my son, Thaddeus, has played Tetris, and he hasn’t been conceived yet. The heady mix of interlocking blocks and chip-tune Korobeiniki has been synonymous with gaming since it was released in 1984 and has appeared in some form or other on almost every gaming system and mobile device ever released. The format is so familiar I won’t even bother describing it – if you don’t know what Tetris is then you’re probably on the wrong website.
Puyo Puyo, on the other hand, is a little more obscure in the west, despite its massive popularity in Japan in the 26 years since the first title was released. In Puyo Puyo pairs, triplets, or tetrads of brightly coloured slime creatures fall from the top of the screen and pop when arranged into a combination of 4 or more of a single colour. Instead of the solitary gameplay of traditional Tetris, Puyo Puyo is played in competition with a CPU or live opponent. A simple concept in theory, and the basics are easy enough to grasp, but Puyo Puyo is a far more complex game than Tetris. The key to scoring big is to set up chain reactions of “pops”, the bigger the chain the bigger the score, but more importantly when you set up a combo you send clear “nuisance” Puyo raining down on your opponent’s board, ruining their carefully set up combos. Games become a frantic race to build huge combos and chuck as much junk at the other player as possible, and it has always been great fun.
The genius of Puyo Puyo Tetris is to combine Puyo Puyo with the “fight” variation of Tetris – where clearing lines sends incomplete lines of junk tetrominos rising up from the bottom of your opponent’s screen – and allows you to play Tetris v Tetris, or Puyo Puyo v Puyo Puyo, or Tetris v Puyo Puyo and so on. Playing on a Puyo Puyo board it’s easy to rack up lots of little clears by just popping four Puyo at a time and sending a steady stream of junk at other players, whereas Tetris is a little slower but is easier to get massive combos by clearing four lines at a time.
Doesn’t sound interesting enough? Well how about a mode where you and your opponents are playing Puyo Puyo, then after a short while you switch to a Tetris board, then back and forth every so often, where setting up a combo to lock into place in the background after you’ve switched boards causes tons of junk to fall on the other players. Still too simple? Ok, well how about playing Puyo Puyo and Tetris at the same time, on the same board?
Fusion mode, my personal favourite, is the culmination of the madness of Puyo Puyo Tetris. A combination of Puyo and Tetrominos will fall from the top of the screen with the Tetrominos sinking to the bottom and the Puyo sitting on top, forcing you to deal with not only trying to set up that perfect 4-line Tetris clear, but getting Puyo chain reactions to pop as well. Combining the two into one move will send a shower of junk at your opponent which is glorious when you pull it off, and hilarious when it happens to you.
If for some reason you get bored of these modes, playing against up to 3 opponents (or in teams), there are nearly 20 different ways to play Puyo Puyo Tetris solo or in multiplayer, plus a 100-stage adventure mode in which characters from the Puyo Puyo and Tetris worlds are thrown together by an inter-dimensional rift (I kid you not) to do battle and eventually resolve their differences. For the purists there is, of course, the option to play endless Tetris or Puyo Puyo as well, but why would you?
Puyo Puyo Tetris has been available on a number of platforms in Japan since 2014, however at the time of writing the only western releases are on PS4 and Nintendo Switch, and although the versions are identical the game seems a perfect fit for the Switch. Being able to bust out a quick game or three on your daily commute, or on your lunch break (or on the toilet) is a blast, and if you fancy sharing the fun you can always break off the Joycon and play in tabletop mode with a friend.
It has to be noted that while I think the Switch version is the way to go if you have both systems, it does come at a premium. The Switch version I purchased was a good £15 more expensive than the PS4 version, and whether £15 is worth paying for the ability to play on your TV or on the go is debatable at best. There are other caveats too – if you are looking for a casual, relaxing puzzle game, this is absolutely not it. While endless Tetris is simple enough, even that gets frantic very quickly.
Online is not particularly beginner-friendly either, while all the modes work seamlessly and finding matches is fast, there doesn’t appear to be any skill-based matchmaking. Granted I’m not very good at Puyo Puyo, but I like to think I’m pretty good at Tetris, however in the dozen or so matches I’ve played online I have prevailed twice (narrowly) and been utterly destroyed the rest of the time. The fact that the western release is only available on two platforms is a shame too, the Japanese release can also be played on 3DS, Wii U, Vita, PS3, and Xbox One, but there is no suggestion if or when the western version will be playable on those platforms.
Despite those minor flaws, Puyo Puyo Tetris is a fantastic package, bursting at the seams with every imaginable way to play any combination of the two games, plus a series of tutorials to teach you the basics and advanced techniques for those unfamiliar. If you enjoy a frantic puzzle game, either alone or played with friends, if you want something you can pick up and play for a spare ten minutes or get lost in for hours (as I have frequently) then Puyo Puyo Tetris comes highly recommended. Just be prepared to spend a long time learning how to Puyo Puyo properly.
The version of Puyo Puyo Tetris reviewed was a digital copy on the Nintendo Switch, purchased by the reviewer. Our review criteria and ethics policy can be found here.