Stacks on Stacks on Stacks.
It’s hard to put Puyo Puyo Tetris into words, exactly. It’s a narrative-driven puzzle extravaganza featuring eclectic characters and off-the-wall puzzles that combine the best of both games. At the same time, it provides a maddening challenge and test of wits and patience. This is not limited to just the puzzles, as the characters themselves are often both trying and extreme in terms of their personalities and habits. Anime tropes run amok in the familiar faces that will return in Puyo Puyo Tetris, and while these are endearing for some, for me it makes the narrative somewhat disjointed. If you can get through the silliness that is Ringo and her friends, Puyo Puyo Tetris offers a lot of fresh gameplay. Featuring different ways to play as well as story mode, there’s something for just about everyone.
The first and most appealing mode to experiment with is Adventure Mode. This is the version of Puyo Puyo Tetris that introduces you to the crazy story of Ringo and her friends meeting Captain Tee and his crew. Through some really strange random encounters, teleportation, and crashed ships, the two star-crossed groups become friends. Then the bigger problems arise. After everyone learns everyone else’s respective games, the true villains show their faces. It’s now the duel of the century as Ringo, Amitie, Tee, Ess, and others fight to free their friends from the holds of darkness.
If this sounds like a bit too much to you, it’s okay. Playing Adventure Mode will unlock other characters, music, skins and stages but is not necessary outside of that. The narrative is there for fun but not to the Puyo Puyo Tetris experience. It does add a good amount, though; seven chapters overall, with ten stages of craziness. Cut scenes between each stage lets you know what’s going on before being jettisoned off to the next challenge.
One issue is that upon starting the game, you’re never ushered into a tutorial. The game assumes you are already familiar with the mechanics behind both Tetris and Puyo Puyo. This might not seem like a big deal at first, but down the line it can be a hindrance. You’re not left completely without, though. Lessons Mode is an option, but for anyone new to one or both games, these may still be found lacking.
Another element of Puyo Puyo Tetris that may be unsatisfying is its ironically-labelled Help Mode. This feature is available only in Adventure Mode, and may come up after the player struggles for too long on one chapter. It doesn’t exactly offer help, though. Instead it just skips the segment altogether, foregoing the star rating and pushing ahead to the next chapter. This was rather disappointing, as the game easily passes up an opportunity to teach the player more about itself. Instead, it whisks the issue under the carpet altogether.
Again though, this only affects those who are playing Puyo Puyo Tetris in Adventure Mode. Solo Arcade is a way to forego the idiosyncrasies of Adventure Mode and get straight to the puzzles. The challenges here are far more intense however, so be prepared to have the floor mopped with your sorry self at least a few times as you experiment with the various options therein. These would be Versus, Fusion, Swap, Party, Big Bang, and Challenge Modes respectively. Versus, Swap, Challenge, and Party sound self explanatory in nature, and that may be true, but are worth noting all the same.
Swap is my favorite out of them all by far. You play both Puyo Puyo and Tetris in a countdown-showdown game style. When the countdown ends you “swap” between the game modes. You may start playing either Puyo Puyo or Tetris at random, and depending on whether you have gone with Battle or Endurance (explained below), your victory conditions will change. Like a few other modes, this one will keep you on your feet, forcing you to switch how you think constantly.
Challenge may only be for the brave of heart, in that it is made up of six separate modes on top of those already provided. Among them are Endless Fever (clear preset chains within a time limit), Endless Puyo (it ends only when you do), Tiny Puyo (mo’ puyos, mo’ problems), Sprint, in which the player must clear forty lines as fast as humanly possible, Marathon, where you must clear 150 lines as fast as possible, and Ultra. Of all of these, Ultra is probably the most merciful. The player must simply stack the highest score within three minutes. In the end, your biggest enemy in this mode is yourself, which may be somewhat refreshing after the rest of these game modes.
If none of this is sounding enticing enough, let’s discuss Party Mode. Pick either Puyo or Tetris in this mode, it doesn’t matter because it won’t save you. Create teams for both yourself and opponents and even establish handicaps if you so choose. But when those Puyos and Tetriminos start falling, it’s all over. Waves upon waves of crazy items that trigger new actions will destroy all pretenses you held about these games. Think Tetris is a piece of cake? Can you stack blocks with the fall speed increased by 50%? Think Puyos are easy to chain together when you can only see using a flashlight? Oh yeah, this mode brings it all, and the difficulty increases depending on the number of opponents you give yourself to compete against.
Beyond that, both Fusion and Big Bang are neat little twists that keep things fresh. Fusion is, true to its name, a fusion between Puyo Puyo and Tetris. It’s not as crazy as it sounds, but it forces you to think fast lest you make mistakes. Big Bang acts in almost the opposite fashion entirely. The player must clear out preset Tetris blocks (Tetriminos) or Puyos faster than their opponent. Whoever performs the fastest and most successfully takes damage at the end of the round. The winner is whoever still has their health at the end. It’s a strange take to be sure, but can really test your twitch reflexes on a different front than the other games.
Every match in the Solo Arcade mode can also be played as either a Battle or Endurance round. Battle allows the player to compete in a single match against anywhere from one to four opponents. Endurance is something of an outlast type of version in which you must be the last man standing. It is up to the player to opt for their preference at the beginning of each game.
The game would not be complete, of course, without both Online and Multiplayer Modes. These I did not try at the time, as there would be no one to play with on both counts. The game runs smoothly, though, enough to believe that each mode will be equal parts fun and punishing when facing off against the proper opponents.
The Line Clear
Puyo Puyo Tetris is for the puzzle gaming lover at heart. It might not be for the feint at heart, though. Despite its deceptively child-at-heart-like appearance, this game can break you. I had to put it down occasionally simply because my brain wasn’t able to chain Puyos efficiently or comprehend the craziness of Party Mode. Truthfully, I still have a hard time with it. Given that a good amount of these games boil down to luck, it’s hard to feel like the player has a leg up in various elements of the game.
With that being said, Puyo Puyo Tetris delivers in finding something for just about everyone. Fans of the series, or either individual game, will be satisfied on at least one level or another. If you’re up for learning a new skill or honing old ones, Puyo Puyo Tetris is going to certainly force you to do as much upon startup. The price point isn’t bad at all either, so if you’re looking for something new to play that’s somewhere between casual and challenging, Puyo Puyo Tetris might have everything you need.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (reviewed); Publisher: Sega ; Developer: Sonic Team; Players: 1-4 ; Released: April 24, 2017 ; ESRB: E for Everyone ; MSRP: $39.99