Charlie loves her video games as much as she loves dumb, charming JRPG protagonists: probably way too much. You can often catch her spending too much time being emotional over LGBT stories in games. She also thinks Yakuza 6 is the best one.
Xbox One, PS4, PC, Switch, PS5, Xbox Series X
December 8, 2020
Have you ever played a game that you find is far better than it has any right to be? Maybe it’s the wacky crossover of Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. Or even possibly it’s the bizarre concrete jungle to explore in Yakuza. Regardless, it’s rare that you find a game that absolutely should not click for you but does. Maybe, if you’re like me, it’s none other than SEGA made puzzle game Puyo Puyo Tetris 2.
Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 is the sequel to the bizarre and fun crossover game that released in 2014. With it saw the Tetris gameplay of clearing rows, doing your best to avoid your screen filling up, mashed up with the matching of coloured blobs gameplay that Puyo Puyo hosted. Both are big puzzling hits in their own rights, with similar frantic natures. Back then, pairing the two became a match made in heaven.
Fast forward to now and the popular game now has an unexpected, but very welcome sequel. Frantic rotating of tetrominoes to plug in gaps in a line, toppling piles of Puyo’s and a wacky campaign all return. It’s a fun puzzling world out there, just be careful about those damned garbage tiles.
One of my big positive takeaways from previewing the game a month ago was the game’s completely bonkers, out of this world campaign. Getting to experience it in full, it proves no exception. The provided ‘adventure’ campaign is a joyous riot.
The campaign will see you following characters from two separate world dimensions. Those in the universe of Tetris, and those in the universe of Puyo Puyo, the lesser-known but still popular-in-Japan match four tile clearing game. Before you know it, the two come crashing down and collide, introducing people from the two to each other. Of course, this is a sequel and have met before. However, man are their memories hazy. What follows is fun, self-aware dialogue where characters utter lines to the likes of “Haven’t we been here before?” and “Have we met?”. It’s a delight.
Perhaps the best thing to come out of the game’s two worlds is the absolutely stacked line-up of characters you’ll get to meet on your journey. Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 has around thirty characters to meet. They’re all mostly unique to one another in their own way, be it the fish character who only talks in fish puns or Schezo, the dark magician that often gets himself in awkward situations for all the accidental innuendos he makes in dialogue. Hilarious.
At the start and end of missions, you engage in visual novel style interactions between characters until their chat inevitably resolves with them battling. One instance saw a series of characters travel to another dimension to engage in a beauty pageant. Of course, the only way these characters in this universe know how to prove their looks, smarts or anything, is to battle. Other occasions saw some of the cast not beating around the bush at all, leaping out at you on-screen with a presence so overbearing and demanding you battle them right then and there.
Overall, the campaign is quite a fun journey. It’ll see you travelling between dimensions and even wondering why some of the returning main characters are in weird, hypnotised, over-keen to battle states. Seeing the cast team up to fight big bad antagonists that are a delight in their own right is an enjoyable experience. Even though it’s harder to mess up a puzzle game, it’s a relief to know that developer Sonic Team still has a good title or two in them.
Throughout adventure’s various worlds and dimensions you’ll explore, you’re gradually introduced to the puzzler’s various game modes on offer. All of the campaign and its teachings were so valued. You’re provided with a generous amount of levels and opportunities, allowing one to not only learn to work faster in Puyo Puyo or Tetris (or mixed) battles, but smarter. I loved this about the campaign, I just wish it wasn’t marginally hurt by how outrageously hard some levels can be. You’ll definitely be available to trump the game, it’s just unfair how no matter how trained I became, some levels saw me throwing my head against a wall until it was finally beat.
Wrap up the adventure mode and Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 still has plenty on offer. Puyo Puyo’s gameplay of moving around a series of coloured Puyo blobs was something I admittedly was less experienced with, but it was intensely satisfying to line-up a series of four coloured blobs and watch them pop, creating a domino effect of falling coloured blobs on-screen. Similarly, there’s still just something innately satisfying about threading a long column 1×4 tetromino piece in a gap of the same size, clearing four rows and resulting in a ‘Tetris.’ With combat barks when you’re doing well combined with dozens of particle effects, it’s definitely a video game that pumps you with endorphins.
For the brave, players can jump straight into online, where no doubt you’ll be against the community’s best of the best. I will say with a caveat that my review copy didn’t allow for online, so I can’t speak for its performance when playing online. Still, a provided ‘Puzzle League’ mode where I can work on improving rankings through intense battles, setting up private casual rooms with friends and also the opportunity to upload replays of my best moments in games are all exciting prospects I’m keen to check out when it launches.
As for solo and local play, six game modes (rulesets) are on offer. Versus is your typical affair where you can verse a friend or AI in a typical battle of either Puyo Puyo or Tetris. It’s great for in-and-out play when you just want a quick game or two. Party has you working to quickly knock out tetromino rows or stacking four of those ever-pretty coloured Puyos. However, it comes with a catch. Power-ups (or debuffs) can appear and be thrust on you or your competitor by clearing the surrounding Puyos or tetrominoes. These can add for some hectic fun, with examples like a shield to deflect attacks of garbage dumps (difficult to remove tiles that fill your screen) your foe dumps, or a spotlight that limits your board view.
“…it’s a relief to know that developer Sonic Team still has a good title or two in them.”
Additionally, Big Bang is a quite satisfying rule set that combines both Puyo Puyo’s Fever mode and Tetris’ Lucky Attack mode. There, players must work quickly to fill in preset boards, watching the tiles all come tumbling down and racking up some sweet points. For added measure, the Fusion mode is a very difficult rule set where you’ll see both Puyo’s and tetrominoes falling down on your board. Players will have to work quicksmart here to use the way the pieces interact to their advantage.
These are all returning game-modes from the previous Puyo Puyo Tetris entry, and while they’re all welcome and fantastic, they’re not the beast that is the new Skill Battle mode.
Yes, as almost every game has it now, Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 is now another with RPG elements. Skill Battle is a new rule set for the game where players will battle in a team of characters against an A.I. Each character will have their own skill, crucial to the battle of dumping garbage in your opponent’s screen to whittle down their health bar. What these can look like in the more passive form is a heal or buff of attack damage. For more active play, a ‘terraformer,’ ability can place a series of tetrominoes for you to clear out in one fell swoop, great for getting a quick jab at your opponent’s HP.
Where the RPG elements come into play as that each team in the Skill Battle ruleset will come with their own stats in the form of HP, MP (used to cast skills), Recovery (how quick MP builds back up), along with Attack and Defense. These can be boosted by engaging in more Skill Battles with the set team to level them up over time or also finding buffs to these stats in the form of Item Cards. Admittedly, I didn’t pay much attention to Item Cards, and instead just always opted for the team with the most HP. However, I’m now beginning to believe that came of great detriment and made Skill Battle sessions more of an uphill battle than they needed to be.
Still, Skill Battles are really quite tough and were often the mode I dreaded being thrust into during the campaign. Largely, that’s due to the fact I still consider myself a poor Puyo Puyo player and a mediocre one at Tetris. The point still stands though, some Skill Battles feel absolutely unfair in how smart the A.I. is at chaining attacks. Tides in combat can change at any time during Skill Battle. I can’t count on my hands the number of times I made it through a match by the skin of my teeth with a last-second heal. I also can’t count the number of retries of battles I took due to my opposition knocking me out in sheer seconds. Ah, the woes of being a very average, but enthused, player at puzzles games.
Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 is a game that had me joyous at its characters and wacky story telling. It’s a dopamine rush when you’re doing well and seeing those particle effects, and a kick in the gut when you’re doing poor and being panned for it. Frustrations aside, I’m still very happy with the time I spent in-game and can’t wait to hopefully some day soon return.
Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 will go down in my personal history as one of the surprise obsessions I found in gaming. I’m not too much of one for anime and their tropes in storytelling. I don’t like when games try to make a campaign out of a mechanic or system that doesn’t justify it. Hell, I don’t even like my puzzle games being all that hard. Still, this game has stayed with me even after rolling credits and trying out all its current modes on offer.
Yes, for returning fans, Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 is more of the same and is a franchise that didn’t particularly need a sequel. Yet it’s a delightful indulgence – one I’m so glad exists.