I still remember the moment I played Tetris for the first time in my life. It was at a Target store and they had just put up a demo kiosk for the Game Boy handheld system, which had just recently released in August of 1989. I had heard of the game through magazines like EGM and Nintendo Power, but even after reading about it, I really didn’t “get it” until I spent a few minutes playing around with the black & white (black & green?) blocks on the tiny Game Boy screen. I was instantly hooked and came back and played the Game Boy every time I would visit that store. It was firmly at the top of my most-wanted gifts on my Christmas list and I was ecstatic to receive it later that year. All afternoon and into the night my cousin (who also got a Game Boy with Tetris packed-in) and I played head-to-head with the link cable and we were hooked, as were millions of people around the world.
I still remember the first time I played Puyo Puyo. It was on the Sega Genesis under a very different name: Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine. Up to this point Sega had tried, and in my opinion failed, to release a fun puzzle game (sorry Columns fans, if there are any). This one had style and a great soundtrack to boot. I liked that the game was simple enough for anyone to play, but the real strategy and challenge came from trying to create chains for more points. I never quite mastered it like I did Tetris (although there are far better players than me), and it never seemed to catch on in North America like Tetris had, but it remained my second favorite drop-style puzzle game.
So, you can imagine my surprise and joy when Puyo Puyo Tetris was announced as a Nintendo Switch title. It’s a mash-up of two of my favorite puzzle games and it’s being made for a system that I can play on the TV or on the go, perfect for quick gaming sessions anytime I like. Of course I was concerned that something could go drastically wrong with the game. I was worried that Tetris might be watered down in some way or that there wouldn’t be a way to play just one version of the game without them being intertwined. Basically, I wanted to be able to enjoy each game on its own without the other being shoehorned in. Luckily all of my worrying was for naught, Sega has managed to squeeze in so many different options into this game that there’s sure to be something for everybody, and finally you can pit your mad Tetris skills against an expert Puyo Puyo player and see who comes out on top!
Puyo Puyo Tetris is packed with different ways to play. Right from the main screen you can immediately dive into a single-player round of Tetris (marathon) or Puyo Puyo Pop or Fusion. I’m going to assume you’ve played Tetris and Puyo Puyo Pop sometime in your lifetime so I won’t explain the actual mechanics in this review. But, Fusion needs some explaining because it isn’t like anything else that’s been done before in either series. As the name suggests, both Tetris blocks and Puyo Puyo blobs will both fall from above. Of course you can clear lines with Tetris blocks and clear blobs by lining up at least four of the same color. What’s very interesting here, and I’ll admit it was kind of difficult to wrap my mind around this at first, is that the Tetris blocks smash all the way through the Puyo Puyo blobs until they hit another Tetris block or the floor of the playfield. When this happens, the blobs float back on top of the Tetris block. This means you can literally clear lines below all of the other junk on top, which can be difficult to figure out with all of the other stuff cluttering the screen. Thankfully if you line up a Tetris block and it will clear a line, the blocks below will be highlighted and glow so it’s a nice visual cue that you can make a good move. This is a fun mode that takes some time to get accustomed to. The CPU is a bit brutal here, especially if it’s your first go at it, but after a few rounds I was able to come out victorious.
As I mentioned before, this game is loaded with various game modes and options. If you’re going at it single player, you’ll be able to take part in Adventure. This is filled with useless cut scenes that try and explain how the Puyo Puyo and Tetris worlds have collided and is filled with annoying characters. Luckily you can skip these cinematics and get right to the game, which is broken into stages. Each level will have a specific goal you need to accomplish and you’re ranked from one to three stars depending on if you hit certain criteria. I found this mode to be really fun and challenging and it was very enjoyable to replay the stages until I was able to perfect them. Some examples include: Score 5000 points in Puyo Puyo within 1.5 minutes, Clear 10 lines in Tetris within two minutes, etc. Not only is this mode fun, but also you’ll want to spend time here because as you clear stages you will unlock things like new characters and music options that can be used in other modes.
Solo Arcade is the place to check out a bunch of different modes of play if you’re going solo and (you guessed it) Multiplayer Arcade is where you go for you and up to three friends to battle it out. Both contain most of the same modes. You can play Versus, which lets you take on one, two, or three CPU (or human) opponents at the same time and you get to select each player’s game: Tetris or Puyo Puyo.
Fusion we’ve already explained, but once again you can go up against one to three opponents. I found this to me more fun with real players than the computer, but your mileage may vary.
Swap has you playing both Tetris and Puyo Puyo on two different puzzle boards. These swap out every twenty five seconds (although you can change that in the options) so you have to stay on your toes and basically play two separate games at the same time (the action does pause on the board that’s not currently being played), which can lead to some headaches. If you manage to win either of the boards you win the round.
Party mode is a great time, especially if you’re going up against human opponents. Here you get random power-ups that can change the course of battle in an instant. One will make your opponent’s pieces drop faster, another will black out most of their screen for a few seconds, and so on. It can be pretty chaotic with four players tossing power-ups every which way.
Finally there’s Big Bang, which has each player trying to clear the entire board as quickly as possible. The Tetriminos or Puyo Puyo blobs are lined up in patterns that are easily taken out at a fast clip. The more you clear the more you add to your ammunition stash. After sixty seconds all of the garbage you’ve accumulated is thrown at the other players and their hit point bars decrease. You’ll need to wipe out the competition before you’re toast!
Solo Arcade does also contain one extra mode called Challenge, which for Puyo Puyo includes: Endless Puyo (single-player Puyo Puyo), Endless Fever (clear preset chains within the time limit), and Tiny Puyo (extra-tiny Puyos rain down). On the Tetris side there are: Sprint (clear 40 lines as fast as possible), Marathon (clear 150 lines with as high a score as possible), and Ultra (get the highest score within 3 minutes). In addition the game includes a Lessons mode that teaches you how to play Puyo Puyo, Puyo Tetris Fusion, and Tetris. This might be useful if you’re a little rusty or just have never played one (or both) of the puzzlers.
No matter which mode you decide to play, you’re constantly earning credits for the lines you make and the rows you clear. These credits can be spent in the shop to customize your game even more, with unique looking Puyos or Tetriminos. You can also unlock new voice packs for the various characters in the game. It’s nothing too exciting, but I’m always a sucker for unlocking new things.
Puyo Puyo Tetris does feature an online mode as well where you can compete against other players, check out global rankings, and even view replays that other players have uploaded to the server (you can even send a friend request to people who are sharing their videos, which is pretty cool). You can compete in Puzzle League, which will allow you to battle head-to-head with players from around the world in ranked mode. Your matches will affect your ranking. If you don’t want to be quite so competitive you can join in on Free Play, which has no impact on your ranking. If a person on your friend’s list has created a room you can join in on his or her game as well. All of the various modes of play are here: Versus, Fusion, Swap, Party, and Big Bang. As this review was being written before the launch of the game, I was unable to test out the online mode, but it does support up to four players and you can even send pre-set messages back and forth between your opponents before a match begins. We will update this review if there are any issues with online after the game launches.
For a puzzle game, Puyo Puyo Tetris looks and sound fantastic. The graphics are super colorful and bright and look fantastic on the TV but really pop on the Switch’s small screen. Playing four players split screen on the small screen works surprisingly well and everything is just super smooth and slick. The music is upbeat and fits the matches to a tee. The classic Tetris main theme song returns with a great remix and even a melodramatic slower version makes an appearance as well. The only annoying thing about the entire audio/video presentation is the voices can be a bit much. You can turn off the sound effects, which does get rid of the voices, but unfortunately it kills the other sound effects as well. I didn’t see an option to just mute the voices (feel free to let me know if there’s a way). It’s not so bad with just single player, but when you have four players battling it out, the various characters never stop talking.
If you want the perfect time killer, Puyo Puyo Tetris will fit the bill nicely. It’s loaded with game modes and options that should appease even the pickiest of puzzle game fans. The game supports up to four players locally or online and you can play with any manner of control scheme you choose. You can even link up via local wireless if each player owns the game. I had an absolute blast playing the game and it completely scratches that portable puzzle game itch. Even if you only like one of the games in the package, there’s plenty to do. I do miss the ability to select who to send my trash to, as it was sometimes fun ganging up on a specific player – as it is it gets spread out among the other players equally. Still, it’s a minor qualm and one that most people probably won’t care about. Puyo Puyo Tetris comes highly recommended and is a perfect fit for Nintendo’s new hybrid system.
Puyo Puyo Tetris Review
- Graphics - 8/108/10
- Sound - 9/109/10
- Gameplay - 8/108/10
- Lasting Appeal - 9/109/10
Final Thoughts: GREAT
There’s a lot of game here in Puyo Puyo Tetris. The amounts of different modes and options are staggering and should keep most gamers busy for a long time to come. Assuming you’re not sick of either game, this one will be a great addition to your Switch library.