Peanut butter and jelly. Milk and Oreo’s. Strawberries and cream. All things that are great when enjoyed individually - but absolutely fantastic when complemented with their pairing. Add to that list, Puyo Puyo and Tetris, two very similar, yet very different tile-matching games that everyone has almost definitely experienced in some form or another - but perhaps not at the same time. And just like anyone who’s never dunked an Oreo into a small glass of warm milk, anyone who’s never played a match of Puyo Puyo Tetris needs a slap, a firm telling off, and an immediate introduction to the best thing to happen to Tetris since - well… Tetris.
The first Puyo Puyo Tetris introduced the world to this game-changing combination in 2014 and provided me with countless late nights at university spent challenging friends and strangers to high stakes matches that either formed new friendships or nearly broke pre-existing ones. Ever since its announcement, I’ve been hotly anticipating its sequel, Puyo Puyo Tetris 2, while remaining cautious as to how a fully-priced release could expand on a concept that had already been perfected. Would the follow-up simply act as a minor update in the path of FIFA’s incremental releases, or might it follow the footsteps of Tetris Effect, unexpectedly offering a new lease of life?
Can't Improve On Perfection
The core concept of the Puyo Puyo Tetris franchise is exemplified in its Swap mode, which sees players attempting to beat an opponent at two simultaneous boards - one of Puyo Puyo and one of Tetris - alternating between them at 30-second intervals. Clearing lines in Tetris or chains in Puyo Puyo sends immovable grey blocks to your opponent's board, often blocking their planned routes or pushing their stack into breaking point. This mode was perfected in the original title and thankfully its sequel doesn’t feel the need to fix something that isn’t broken, aside from offering a few welcome aesthetic changes. The dynamic background animations that trigger on successful combos really make wins much more satisfying without being overly distracting.
Adventure Mode will likely be the spot where most new players dip their toes in, perhaps expecting a gradual introduction to the core mechanics of the hybrid gameplay, or even simply to the concept of Puyo-Puyo, given that its language isn’t nearly as embedded in the western mainstream to the extent of Tetris. Aside from a gradual incline in difficulty as players progress through levels, no effort is made to introduce its gameplay rules or strategy within its narrative. In fact, its opening is told from the perspective of the characters native to the Puyo Puyo universe, who all express their confusion and shock at the oddities of the world of Tetris, though the opposite might have made more sense given the majority of players will be steadily familiar to Tetris, and largely foreign to Puyo.
I only got to explore the first world of this mode, though I was pleasantly charmed by the totally absurd narrative and the whimsical tone that is offered. Characters constantly reference feelings of deja-vu as the worlds of Puyo and Tetris become amalgamated once again, and frequently mock each other’s bizarre names and origins. The writers are clearly aware of the silliness that the narrative represents, but allow themselves to have fun with it, leaving me optimistic for its full potential.
Drunk On Modes
Levels cycle through the various different modes featured in Puyo Puyo Tetris 2, and though there is an abundance of modes to offer plenty of variety, disappointingly, only one is new to the sequel. Skill Battle takes inspiration from JRPG’s, seeing players building a party of three characters, each with unique stats and abilities, as they manage MP and HP bars alongside the typical Puyo/Tetris swap battle. While this premise is certainly admirable in its ambition, it’s one that didn’t quite work for me. Characters have their own unique offensive or defensive abilities, but I found that very few abilities made enough of a difference to really matter. Perhaps a Puyo Puyo Tetris veteran might enjoy an additional, if minor, challenge, but I can’t particularly see this mode appealing to new players.
Previous modes return from its predecessor, including Versus (traditional Puyo or Tetris, no swapping), Party (who can clear the most lines/chains in a time limit), Fusion (Puyo’s and Tetriminoes drop into the same board), Big Bang (clearing preset lines before your opponent), as well as various smaller Challenge modes. Though all of these modes are fantastic fun - they're just the same fantastic fun that was found in the first game. And even though the diversity of these modes provides plenty of content variety, they don’t really hold a candle to the core Swap mode, which remains the premier attraction, and will almost definitely be where most players spend their time.
If however, players somehow find themselves seeking even more content, Sega is prepared to satiate that hunger, with an impressive promise that all post-release content will be provided via free game updates - though perhaps that’s the least they could do given that the game itself feels like post-release content for the original.
The Bottom Line (Of Tetrominoes)
Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 looks set to maintain the fantastically satisfying, pick-up-and-play sensibilities of the original - but that’s about it. This sequel acts more like a deluxe edition repackaging of the first game, and it’s an awful shame that it doesn’t offer anything new besides an already familiar story and a new mode that will only appeal to a very specific niche. It’s going to be hard to recommend to purchasers of the original, but it certainly feels like the superior jumping on point for anyone who missed it the first time around.