Mashing two great things together doesn’t always work, but Tetris and Puyo Puyo are a great fit.
Puyo Puyo Tetris combines the blob-color matching puzzle playstyle of Puyo Puyo with the well-known Tetris, making for a “frantic four-player puzzle mashup,” as advertised, with an impressive amount of content and game modes that often have you and your opponents playing entirely different games side by side, yet still in direct competition.
Simply slamming two famously addictive puzzle games together is much more likely to make an abomination than something as good or better than either piece, but here it’s pulled off well thanks to a variety of well thought-out modes that complement each other. The basic idea of Puyo Puyo hasn’t changed much since we saw it in the more recognizable Kirby’s Avalanche and Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine: color-coded blobs, called puyo, fall from above in twos, and you must match four of the same colors to “pop” them. It sounds simple, but the complexity comes from the fact that matching them as fast as possible won’t make you a puyo-popping master. To really rack up points, chains of puyos must be carefully placed so that when one set is popped a cascading waterfall of combos follows. Tetris, of course, hasn’t changed at all either, but the modes that combine the two into a single game keeps things interesting for both the solo and multiplayer modes, which support up to four players locally and online.
With six Challenge modes, five Arcade modes, Lessons, and a 100-stage Adventure mode, there is plenty to keep you busy. Versus, Party, and Big Bang can be played with either Puyo Puyo or Tetris, against an opponent using either as well. This is great when playing against friends with experience in only one of the game types, but Puyo Puyo is admittedly slightly easier to gain the upper hand when up against Tetris. A combo of two in Puyo Puyo is enough to send at least some garbage to your opponent, which is arguably easier than setting up a four-line clear or combo in Tetris.
The Tetris player is at a slight disadvantage.
Versus is straight forward: make combos in Puyo Puyo, or clear four lines at once in Tetris, to send garbage to your opponent. In Party, items on the board can be cleared with puyos and tetriminos to activate attacks or buffs. The Tetris player is at a slight disadvantage here, too, as one attack causes pieces to drop at an incredibly fast pace, making it significantly more difficult for the Tetris player to evenly distribute dropping tetriminos.
Big Bang puts players in Frenzy mode in Puyo Puyo, and Lucky Attack mode in Tetris, creating a fast-paced rush to make huge combos with preset boards until the timer runs out. It’s an especially frantic mode that compares scores when the time ends, depleting HP based on the score discrepancy between players. If all players are still standing after the attack, a new round begins and so on until there’s only one left. This mode is a bit more balanced than Versus or Party when sizing up Puyo Puyo and Tetris head to head.
Swap and Fusion combine both Puyo Puyo and Tetris in different ways. In Swap, two boards–one for Puyo Puyo and one for Tetris–are managed alternatively after a set time. This is the most balanced mode that combines both game types and works very well. It adds an extra layer of strategy, forcing players to time combos so that garbage is repeatedly sent to the same board to maximize nuisance.
Good luck if your first tetrimino is an S or a Z.
In Fusion mode, puyos can change colors, pieces switch between tetriminos and puyos as they drop, and frustratingly, once a tetrimino touches anything on the board, it can’t be moved. It becomes increasingly more difficult the higher the board is stacked, preventing you from trying to set up large combos with puyos. Also because tetriminos can’t be moved once they touch something, they can’t be slid into an open slot beneath a block as in regular Tetris mode, either. So good luck if your first tetrimino is an S or a Z. The saving grace is that tetriminos clear the garbage it falls on, and it does add a whole new level of strategy to both Puyo Puyo and Tetris, as a falling tetrimino will reposition any puyos it passes. There’s a steep, steep learning curve to Fusion, as it doesn’t always follow the rules of the individual games.
The single-player Adventure mode, which includes every variety of game type, will take about nine hours to complete by someone of average skill level. The difficulty scales very well, too, starting out fairly easy with basic Puyo Puyo and Tetris Versus modes, steadily increasing the AI’s difficulty, and adding in more modes, the most difficult being Fusion.
The story in Adventure mode is actually quite entertaining.
I’m usually not one for handholding, but Puyo Puyo Tetris has a feature called Help mode in Adventure mode that lets you entirely skip a stage if it’s failed at least three times in a row. This comes in handy with the few frustrating levels and prevented me from putting down the Switch for extended periods of time – which is apt to happen with some level-based games. I ended up skipping two levels in Adventure mode after smashing my face into them for more than an hour, and they were both Puyo Puyo Tetris Fusion. That’s a pretty big tell about this new mode’s design, but because of the aforementioned Help mode it didn’t entirely bar my access to the rest of the game, which would have been especially unfortunate considering the story in Adventure mode is actually quite entertaining.
For a puzzle game, Puyo Puyo Tetris has a ton of personality. It’s colorful cast of 24 characters is just as dazzling as the popping puyos and bursting tetriminos, and their snappy, silly dialogue (in English as opposed to its native Japanese!) kept things interesting between stages in Adventure mode. Because of this I never skipped through the story, and although it was definitely ridiculous, it was inane in the best way possible. Who doesn’t love a guy who speaks solely in fish puns, or relate to a powerful wizard with an even more powerful sweet tooth? A man after my own heart. Each of the characters has different playstyles, too, keeping challenges fresh throughout Adventure mode.