I spent many nights playing puzzle games as a kid, and since I owned a SEGA Genesis growing up, that meant quite a bit of my time was occupied by Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine. I would later learn that the game (like much of my childhood) was a lie and that it was actually a re-skinned version of Puyo Puyo. Despite having a fondness for SEGA’s brand of falling block puzzles, I eventually joined most people when I purchased a Game Boy and became obsessed with the undisputed king of the genre — Tetris. Fast forward 15 years, and now the two influential icons of the genre have joined together for a special release called Puyo Puyo Tetris.
As the name suggests, the big draw of Puyo Puyo Tetris is getting to see how the line clearing action of Tetris gels with the color matching mechanics of Puyo Puyo. This comes to fruition in Fusion mode, a crossover offering that consistently alternates between dropping puyos and tetromino pieces. It’s a bit confusing at first, but the key is that tetrominoes are able to go through puyos. This essentially turns the puzzle grid into a game of Tetris at the bottom while Puyo Puyo takes place on top.
The confusion doesn’t last long, as after just a couple of matches I started to pick up the basics of Fusion Mode. I learned that skillful play revolved around using the forceful tetromino pieces to my advantage, as they could be used to clear out dead pieces (which are sent over by the opposing player), and even create chain reactions with the puyos. By blending together the perfect mixture of classic fundamentals (it’s key that puyos and tetrominoes act as they should) and new ideas, SEGA has made franchises that are over 25 years old feel fresh again.
I’m Playing Puyo Puyo
Fusion is just one of the many modes on offer, as Puyo Puyo Tetris is filled with entertaining variations. Puzzle game standards such as Versus mode are in full force, albeit with the unique caveat that players can pick to play either Puyo-Puyo or Tetris in their half of the versus board, to more original ones like Swap mode, where the player alternates between playing both puzzle games. There are also six different challenge modes, which are all centered around getting a high score. I spent a lot of my time here as it’s where the more traditional offerings are, such as endless Tetris and Puyo Puyo variants.
I only found one mode to be a disappointment, and that was the game’s Adventure mode. It’s essentially a collection of missions with cutscenes in between them. The problem isn’t the missions themselves, as they’re all relatively simple stuff such as clear 10 lines in Tetris or defeat a computer opponent, but how the progression works. Players have to complete each mission in a linear order, and there’s no way to skip a level that players are having issues with. What hurts it even further is that the sub-par story is filled with incredibly annoying characters, and that really kills any potential motivation to retry the more difficult missions that halt progress.
While the story mode is a bummer, credit has to be given to SEGA for how well they handled Puyo Puyo Tetris‘ tutorials. Players can go through a series of lessons for both of the default puzzle games and the Fusion mode. This was incredibly helpful for me, as beyond the occasional match of Puyo Puyo Tsu, I haven’t played much of Puyo Puyo in the past 15 years. It really helped me better understand chaining, and I felt like a far more complete player after viewing them.
I’m Playing Tetris
There’s a lot of single-player content in Puyo Puyo Tetris, but there’s no denying that the game truly shines in multiplayer. All of the solo arcade modes (basically anything that isn’t in the challenge section) are playable locally up to four players. Predictably, things get pretty hectic with that many players, especially in the game’s Party mode, which adds items into the mix. I found it to always be a blast, even if the items threw in some randomness into the matches.
Those that want a more serious competitive experience will want to hop online, where they can compete in the game’s Puzzle League. This ranked mode has players battling one-on-one, and I quickly found out I had a lot of room for improvement. My first ranked match pitted me against an experienced Japanese player that completely decimated me. That embarrassing loss essentially ended my competitive Puyo Puyo career (which is a shame since I wanted to enjoy all the theatrics that come with being a grandmaster), and I settled for playing against people I knew online instead.
It was here that I had the most fun, as nothing beats playing against someone of a similar skill level. Things quickly got intense as I alternated wins and losses with a friend, and engaged in all of the trash talk that comes with such a competition. I loved every second of it, and while it may not top Tetris Battle Gaiden as my favorite multiplayer puzzle game, it’s certainly in the same league as it.
I’m Playing Combination Puyo Puyo Tetris
It’s not surprising that combining two of the best puzzles games would result in a fantastic game, but it’s astounding how well the two games that make up Puyo Puyo Tetris gel together. The game’s marquee Fusion mode manages to make two very familiar series feel fresh, and it’s some of the most fun I’ve had in the genre. On top of that, Sega has packed in over a dozen modes, many of which allow players to play straight Tetris or Puyo Puyo. It’s truly the best of both worlds, and it ends up creating an essential puzzle game.
Review code for Puyo Puyo Tetris provided by the publisher. Reviewed on PS4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.