Brick by brick.
Gamers of a certain age will know what I mean when I say that I played a lot of Tetris on the Gameboy. A hell of a lot. That game was the reason that the Gameboy became the behemoth that it did. The team-up with Nintendo also propelled the game to instant classic status; a classic that is recognizable today to millions of people across the world. The Tetrominos, the infectious music and the drug-like addiction it caused in its players. No matter what happens, I believe that Tetris will remain as one of the greatest games of all time.
But that isn’t to say that the game hasn’t had its fair share of failures over the years. Dreadful ports, shameless cash grabs and more recently the Ubisoft published Tetris Ultimate have meant that even the mighty Tetris hasn’t had a blemish free history, but that all changes with Puyo Puyo Tetris; possible the best iteration of the Russian classic.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch (Reviewed)
Multiplayer: Yes – Local and online
This time it is SEGA’s turn to have a stab at the franchise, and instead of just churning out a half-assed port, they have turned the game on its head by adding another puzzle game in to the mix, Puyo Puyo. Now, if you have never heard of Puyo Puyo then you aren’t alone; I hadn’t heard of it either. But if I say that the gameplay resembles Dr. Mario or Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, then you may understand the basics. Different colored blobs of gel, Puyo Puyos, fall from the top of the screen. The goal is to match up four or more of the same color to make them pop. It’s very similar to the gameplay of Tetris, which is key to why this game works so well. They just seem like the perfect bedfellows.
When firing up the game for the first time, it was obvious that this game was developed by SEGA. Bright colors, flashy menus and catchy tunes are delightfully Japanese. From this screen players can make the first choice on offer. Having two games in one adds a huge amount of content to mess around with, so from the go the game will offer up a selection of game modes. Tetris mode, Puyo Puyo Mode or Fusion. These are the standard modes of the two games, along with the Fusion mode, which is a mode that swaps the Tetrominos for Puyo Puyos mid game and back again. Fun and challenging. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. The other option on the main screen is Main Menu. This will takes players to the main hub of the game and open up a wealth of content. First off there is an adventure mode, with its own fully fledged story. Yes, they have managed to include a story mode in a puzzle game. To be fair, this is just a way to get one moving from one challenge to another. It revolves around a bunch of wacky characters from both the Tetris universe and the Puyo Puyo universe, whose worlds collide in some mystical mishap and end up battling each other, before all living happily ever after. It’s absolutely bonkers and I wouldn’t bother paying too much attention to it. It does however offer 100 challenges to tackle, each with three starts to each on every one. It’s a great way to learn all of the different battle modes on offer and get used to the unusual nature of this mash-up.
Next up is Solo Arcade mode. This section offers up six different games modes which can all be played with up to three CPU opponents. It’s great for when players want to play some offline multiplayer and don’t have any friends to play with. Multiplayer Arcade allows some game action with friends, either using a single screen or multiple Switch consoles via LAN.
The Online section allows for online multiplayer in a variety of ways. Freeplay, where one can create or join a lobby for some friendly fun, or Puzzle League that allows for competitive matches that offer up random game modes. These modes are normally time and scored based, as opposed to just clearing lines just to shovel dead pieces onto the opponents play area. These games are often fast, with little chance to even get a glance at how the other player is getting on. Win or lose, players can simply find a new game and start again. My experience with the online component was positive, with quick matchmaking and competent players. I could also just join a friend online and battle it out.
Finally there is a tutorial mode that offers guidance on all three types of gameplay; which I would recommend to anyone who is unfamiliar with the games.
Most of the game modes will award the player coins for every success. These coins can be collected and spent at the game’s shop. There are unlockable icons, backgrounds, music tracks and various other trinkets to buy with the hard earned cash.
All told there is an embarrassment of riches to be found in Puyo Puyo Tetris. But that would all fall by the wayside if the gameplay didn’t hold up. Luckily all the Tetriminos have fallen into place. On the Tetris side we have a game that feels new, but faithful to the original with a slow build up, leading to nerve fraying conclusion. Puyo Puyo is a slightly different beast, swapping speed for strategy, where the placement of a single piece can be the difference between success and failure. Joining them together was an inspired decision and one that has reinvigorated both games.
But there is one thing that stands out as rather strange; the actual release of the game. It is available on both PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. However, it is only available on physical release on PS4, with no digital version. And on the Switch the price is $10 more expensive on cartridge than from the eShop. There may be some sort of publishing restriction when it comes to the PS4 version that prevents a digital release; that wouldn’t be completely unheard of. But the price disparity on the Switch is odd. With the limited amount of built in storage on the Switch, many people may prefer the physical version, leaving them $10 out of pocket for the same game.
But let us not dwell on the one negative and rejoice in an amazingly quirky, colorful and ever so slightly nutty return of an old classic and his new best friend. It had been a long time since I last thought about a good game of Tetris, and I had never even seen a Puyo Puyo before, but having these two games come together in such a way has been a true delight. This is also a perfect game to have on the switch. Great on the go when you just need to pass the time, but equally as good on the big screen with some mates to challenge.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.