Puyo Puyo Tetris Review
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Wii-U, Sony PS Vita, Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox One
In recent history Japanese games have become less of a thing. Once it was the great doyen of game development with so much of what was received as triple-A gaming coming from the Far East. Whilst pockets of brilliant developers and publishers still exist - Nintendo and From Software to name two exceptional examples - Western gaming is now dominant. Themes of American and British titles are being taken aboard by their Eastern brethren, in turn losing more of the intrinsic feel of a Japanese game. Perhaps it all started with Gears of War. Anyway, with this in mind it’s always good fun when something pops up that is very much Japanese in style and execution. With Puyo Puyo Tetris we have such a game, despite its part-Russian heritage.
Tetris is, I imagine, familiar to all reading this. Developed by Alexey Pajitnov and originally released in 1984, Tetris has been available on nearly every format known to mankind over the years. Its popularity and awareness reached its peak in 1989 when the Game Boy was released with Tetris packed in. A simple puzzle game - on the surface - whereby different shaped tiles drop from the sky and either fill up your screen leading to the game being over, or are manouvered in terms of position and orientation in order to create lines and remove them from your screen. As the game progresses things get faster and going for high scores of lines was a national pastime once upon a time. Puyo Puyo is also a tile-matching game that bizarrely came to life as a spin-off from a series of the RPG series Madou Monogatari, with the tiles being effectively the slime monsters from this game. Over the years there have been many variants of the game released which all follow the same basic premise. Where it’s different to Tetris, though, is that you don’t necessarily want to get rid of tiles when you can, but rather when you will best benefit from it. In that regard there is more strategy to it.
There is a lot of content here to keep puzzlers occupied for longer than a simple execution of one or both games would in the modern day. In fact it’s really neverending. Most appealing on first booting the game up - and where you can really learn how to play - is the story mode, completely random and thoroughly energetic, colourful and kooky. It contains many tens of levels and tasks, each teaching you the skills needed to learn and then master Tetris or Puyo Puyo. The story mode follows on from the series’ 20th anniversary and includes multiple characters who will be familiar to any fan of this world, each of which is fully voiced and seen throughout in various cutscenes. Everything is dressed up in cartoony graphics, vibrant colours and fabulous voices. Exactly what you expect from a JRPG. It’s all very OTT for a puzzle game but equally it makes this much more than just a puzzle game.
And it’s bloody hard, actually. Like, really hard. If you haven’t played before - either game - then get ready to have your behind handed to you by the game, the AI and most definitely any real opponent online. Outside of story mode, which is massive and should keep you occupied for ages anyway, you have a variety of ways to practice, play and master the requisite skills. There is the option to play Tetris, Puyo Puyo or a fusion of both against one or more AI opponents. This can be in a best of three or more and is the simple versus mode. You can play a knockout mode of the game called Big Bang, or one with ever-changing power-ups described as Party mode. You can play these as mentioned against AI, locally against a sofa buddy, or online against friends. Even the versus mode is more than just a tile-matching puzzler though. You can play Tetris whilst your opponent plays Puyo Puyo, or you can all be playing the same type of game. But powerups exist to mix things up and if you’re tackling a Puyo Puyo opponent then you’ll regularly get Ghost slimes dumped in your field of play ensuring strategy and exceptional ability is needed to succeed.
Perhaps most excitingly though for someone wishing to test out their newly acquired skillset, is that you can go online against randoms from around the world (dependent on your matchmaking settings) and play unranked or ranked games. On your first venture expect to get destroyed. The challenge is significant and you will need to master the game or games you choose to play most online. Matchmaking is fairly swift and the connection rock solid as long as your own internet connection remains so. This mode is really where the longevity of the game will come into play once Story mode is beaten (taking you anywhere from six hours or so if you’re good, to many more if you’re not!). It’s probably best left for those who have beaten the main game, and learnt all the game has to offer - helped handily by the basic, intermediate and advanced in-game tutorials. I say this because the game is really hard as mentioned earlier - much more so than those familiar with only Tetris (or nothing) would expect. If you have this mastery and energy to continue playing, or commit the time to gain it, then dropping in and out of Puyo Puyo Tetris over the coming months and years will be rewarding.
Puyo Puyo Tetris has been a long time coming to the West. It was released in 2014 but only now are we getting this localisation. It’s been worth it though. Sega and Sonic Team have provided us with a fun, engaging and very challenging puzzler which can be played in a variety of ways, for short and long sessions. If you want more then there is always more to do, especially with the online play. If you want to dabble and move on you’ll still get fun out of it along the way. Equally it’s great that more folk will be introduced to the world of Puyo Puyo Given its lack of penetration into the Western market compared to its far superior reception and library of games in Japan, this Tetris mash-up may finally get Puyo Puyo some deserved recognition over here.