When worlds collide…again!
Let’s get this out of the way: Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 — SEGA’s follow-up to the zany Puyo Puyo Tetris crossover — is, top from bottom, almost identical to its predecessor. Oh, yes, there’s some new faces popping Puyos and solving Tetriminos to fresh backdrops and a jazzed-up soundtrack, but you’d be forgiven for being struck by a vivid sense of déjà vu; in fact, Puyo Puyo Tetris stars Ringo, Tee, and the rest of the gang would certainly vouch for me, what with their latest hyperactive adventure defined by an amnesiac case of familiar camaraderie. The Skill Battle mode is an appreciated addition that certainly shakes things up, but from the xeroxed family of modes to recycled voice clips, it bears repeating this is the same game you played back in 2017.
Whether or not this matters to you depends entirely on your own experience with the first Puyo Puyo Tetris; after all, said identicalness must mean that Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 is still the same sugar rush of pure, unfiltered addiction that captivated our hearts over the past six years. (Or three-and-a-half, given the high likelihood you were introduced to the localized release) Diehard veterans and casual regulars who persist in polishing their game should have no trouble making the transition, yet those who hadn’t touched the peppy puzzler since 2017 might be apprehensive about indulging in a second course.
Ah, but for newcomers entirely unfamiliar with SEGA’s puzzle mash-up — now you’re certainly in for a treat. The dream dream crossover puzzle fans never knew they wanted: both puzzlers are wondrously pliable in their approach to play, from simply clearing every Tetrimino line coming your way to playing the long game with carefully-calculated color-coded Puyo stacks. Sugared with dreamy eye candy and bubbly avatars, yet operating to the merciless beat of cutthroat, rough-and-tumble competition, addiction steadily burgeoning as you unleash combo after combo, successfully smothering your opponent with Garbage blocks. (Or, worse: frantically ridding your own puzzle tank of the pesky gray blobs) With Puyo Puyo Tetris 2’s emphasis on Vs. gameplay, it’s a legitimate nail-biter whether you’re playing the explosive Big Bang or the mind-bending Fusion mode. (Don’t care for all the surplus of zany modes? That’s fine: plain jane Puyo Puyo and Tetris are accessible straight from the title screen)
The big new attraction this time is Skill Battle — a team-based mode applying unique character abilities in battle. Each team can be customized to either Puyo Puyo or Tetris set-ups, all to the tune of ability-consuming MP bars, stat-boosting equipment, and level-ups. Some abilities are what they say on the tin can — the obnoxious Jay & Elle’s defense-decreasing Holdup is key to buffering your deadly combos, whereas others are deceptively simple: the various breeds of color-changing “Change All” might yield an initial head-scratch, yet its instant Puyo Puyo combo can either turn fortune your way with a crushing defeat or be masterfully countered with your opponent’s masterful set-ups and carefully-selected abilities.
It’s a much-appreciated layer of strategy that’ll certainly attract dedicated fans in its wild unpredictability — just when you think you’ve found something potentially game-breaking in, say, the aforementioned Change All Ability, you’ll find your confidence shattered by a dastardly HP Recovery courtesy of a high-level Carbuncle. Yes, simply spamming Change All might work with the overwhelmed newbie, but against an expert who knows what they’re doing, it’s not gonna work. Yet such failures force you to reevaluate your strategy — perhaps your time-sink in meticulously stacking Puyos might be working against you? Just like a regular game of Puyo Puyo and Tetris, you’ll need to channel that delicate balance of timely strategy to overcome your opponent!
Putting it this way: the ways Skill Battle compels you to experiment with different set-ups provides a fantastic feedback loop; why, I’ve found forging teams of random characters/abilities to be a great strategy in understanding the mode’s depth. Fans new to either puzzle game might want to stick with the simpler modes to learn the ins-and-outs, but familiar veterans may find it a useful tool to further dive into Puyo Puyo Tetris 2‘s depths. Of course, I’m saying this all as a game reviewer strictly confined to neutral CPU opponents — while we’re certain to see team set-ups far more devious than mine, some veterans may find themselves retreating to the tried-but-true timelessness of regular ol’ Puyo Puyo and Tetris. As noted in my preview, I only wish there were more convenient shortcuts to edit and craft teams: you’ll have to trek over to Options each and every time.
Naturally Skill Battle’s given some limelight in the game’s Adventure Mode; like before, the contextual anarchy over the Puyo Puyo and Tetris worlds colliding is nothing but a convenient excuse to serve as a tutorial for new players — everything from regular Puyo Puyo to Party Mode is but at the mercy of the zany cast’s whims as they re-learn their surroundings, with starship escapades, rapping fish, illiterate swordsmen (“I’ll be on top of this soon enough! I’ll be on top of you, too!”) and mind-control totalitarianism over the word “fun” merely but a pretext for clearing levels and earning three-star ratings. Should this sugary-sweet nonsense prove too much for you, Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 is kind enough to let you skip the cutscenes.
I can’t be the only one who thinks Puyos look positively scrumptious…right?
Thankfully, sugary-sweet nonsense happens to be right up my alley, and Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 is also gracious enough to let us skip any tough battles so we can simply observe the adorable antics of Ringo, Tee, and the rest. Yes, the “amnesia” storyline inevitably recycles certain plot beats from the original, but it also serves as a convenient window into the chaotic world of Puyo Puyo — one with proper introductions to its cartoonish residents than the original’s avalanche of abrupt hellos, anyway. A mental stimulation this wacky Saturday Morning Cartoon is not, but as our brains are already full juggling mind-bending solutions, each absurd development and goofy exchange are appreciated, wholesome cooldowns for our weary cerebrums. (Ones the game’s superb voice cast certainly had a ball recording; alas, while Sig’s dry, detached delivery provided some genuine howlers last time, muffled sound quality on the VA’s end distracts from his delivery here. Woe is our red-armed friend!)
Is Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 more of the same? Yes, and no matter how much I sing its praises, there’ll be those grumbling away at what’s admittedly little more than a reskin. Yet while points might be docked off for a lack of originality, I’m compelled to ask: why fix what ain’t broke? Timeless and engaging in its approachable genius, the puzzle game of the generation remains unmatched in its pliable depth.
(Really, if there’s any major disappointments on my end…those “solid color” stage backgrounds? Eye-bleeding horribleness. As someone who enjoys random settings, whoever came up with those…things has earned my eternal scorn.)
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Switch (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S; Publisher: SEGA; Developer: SEGA; Players: 1-4; Released: December 8th, 2020; ESRB: E10+; MSRP: $39.99
Full disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher.