PS3 review: Puyo Puyo Tetris

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Puyo Puyo Tetris is all about Suketoudara. Half muscleman and half fish, Suke jumps into battle with a flying kick and wags his finger at fallen opponents. Send him garbage blocks and he shouts in surprise, defeat him and he breaks down crying. Suke’s two-sidedness makes him extremely fun to play as — and extremely annoying to play against.

He’s emblematic of the game as a whole. Puyo Puyo Tetris mixes and mashes up the two classic puzzle series, nailing the core gameplay modes while flubbing up some of the extras. Neither game is quite as robust as it would be in a standalone release, but the mixture of the two is endlessly fun.

Between the games, most western players are probably more familiar with Tetris. Differently shaped blocks fall into a well, and it’s up to the player to stack them into lines with no gaps in between. Completed lines disappear and score points. Tetris pits players against their own skills as the blocks begin falling faster and faster, leaving less and less time to position them correctly.

Unlike Tetris, Puyo Puyo (known in the West as Puyo Pop) was forged in battle. Players build stacks of colored jellyblob puyos into massive chains, flooding opponents with nuisance puyos. There’s a sort of fighting game flow as players harass each other with simple combos while working up to their decisive attack.

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Versus mode is fast-paced and fun as hell.

Puyo games can be a bit tiresome solo, which is why Sega always includes extended story modes against AI opponents. Puyo Puyo Tetris’ story mode is 80 levels long, switching back and forth between Tetris and Puyo playstyles. There’s a refreshing emphasis on everything the game has to offer, making sure players understand each of the different modes and giving them plenty of different challenges. There’s only one difficulty mode, but it ramps up steadily and gives players different rankings to strive for.

The real heart of Puyo Puyo Tetris is Versus mode. Up to four players can challenge each other in free-for-all or team battles, and each player can select whether they want to play Puyo Puyo or Tetris on their board. Being able to play either game opens up Puyo Puyo Tetris to fans of either series, making it easier to find opponents and allowing for longer play sessions as players switch between styles at will. Things can get a little crazy with four people playing, but turning on team play makes the game less hectic and more strategic.

Both games feel surprisingly well balanced against each other. At first it seemed that Puyo was king, since it allows for such drastically stronger combos and chains. But Tetris garbage blocks are a lot less obtrusive than nuisance puyo. In addition, Tetris players can hard drop their tetrominoes immediately and don’t have to wait through chain animations. Each game plays to its strengths. Tetris opts for speed, Puyo for complexity.

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Swap mode hones your skills at both games.

There are a bunch of other modes as well. Swap mode alternates between Tetris and Puyo boards at set intervals, requiring players to be good at both games. Mix mode combines both games onto one board, the Tetris pieces squashing any puyos they land on top of. Party mode plays like versus with items and point-based victories, except losing players get a new board instead of being eliminated. Big Bang mode provides prearranged stacks for each player, allowing them to immediately trigger massive combos if they place their tetrominoes and puyos correctly.

Swap mode is easily the best of the bunch. It forces players to think on their toes, quickly placing blocks and puyos while anticipating the shift to their other board. There’s a bit of stress to it, and it fosters skill in both games.

Party mode feels like a huge missed opportunity — the items are too powerful and incredibly obtrusive. They freeze puyos, lock rotation, make blocks fall immediately, or darken the board. Because it’s point based and players can’t be knocked out, an itemless party mode would have been great for teaching players both games. It’s really a shame that Party mode lets players increase or decrease items, but not turn them off entirely.

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Big bang mode challenges players to complete massive chains and combos.

Each mode (including Versus mode) can be played solo against the CPU in either a single match or an endless match. Endless matches bring in a new opponent every time you defeat one, without wiping your board. They’re a cool addition, though they don’t quite make up for the game’s lack of a proper arcade mode.

There are a few purely single player modes as well. Puyo Puyo gets Endless Fever mode, Marathon, and Chibi Puyo mode, the last of which plays like a regular Puyo game with a larger playfield. Tetris gets 40 Line Clear, Marathon, and Three Minute Ultra mode.

The Puyo modes feel more like practice for versus, while the Tetris modes are much more fun in and of themselves. I’m not typically a huge Tetris fan, but this version is great. I think its appeal comes down to the presentation more than anything — the sound effects provide great feedback, and the graphics are sharp and colorful. But it also has everything you’d look for in Tetris: T-spins, back-to-backs, combos, quick and hard drop, etc. It’s really slick, and the selectable characters add some life to an otherwise spartan series.

My largest gripe with Puyo Puyo Tetris is that it lacks Fever rules for the main versus modes. Puyo Puyo Fever was something of a revelation for the series, allowing intense back and forth battles between players. I have no problem with Puyo Puyo’s classic ruleset, but Fever rules should be included with each new release. They’re too substantial to shove aside.

That aside, there’s enough here to make Puyo Puyo Tetris a great game on its own merits; with a little tweaking, this could be my go-to puzzle game. And I’m honestly in love with the idea of mashing up two completely different series into one — we’ve seen it with fighting games, and I’m really happy to see such great puzzle games get the same treatment. Here’s hoping we get a sequel in the form of Puyo Puyo Tetris Attack — Suke is itching for a rematch.

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Puyo Puyo Tetris is a Japanese import, but the PS3 and Vita versions work on US systems. The game does have Japanese text, but it’s generally not a problem unless you want to understand story mode.

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8 Responses to “PS3 review: Puyo Puyo Tetris”

  1. Strawberry Says:

    This kinda reminds me of Pokemon Puzzle League… Are the purple haired and blonde haired girls in the picture twins?

    • catstronaut Says:

      Poke Puzzle is actually my favorite puzzle game 😀

      And I don’t know what’s up with them, really. I think they’re supposed to represent the L and J Tetris pieces, hence their hand gestures. But I’m really not even sure what gender either of them are…

  2. Jakob Peeker (@JakobPeeker) Says:

    Did you try the online? Is it alright playing with japanese people? I just got Tetris DS and previously thought Tetris was kinda boring, but I’m getting really into it. Since Nintendo are closing down DS online servers I want a more current puzzle game to play and this seems fun, I always liked the puyo puyo games.

    I don’t have a PS3 and would buy it on Vita though, so online would have to be pretty damn good for me to import it since I wouldn’t have any local multiplayer (which is the best way to enjoy these games)…

    • catstronaut Says:

      I only played the online a little bit. There was a little lag in some matches but it wasn’t a huge deal imo. In the small amount I played, there seemed to be a wide variety of skill levels, and it seemed like there were people playing both Tetris and Puyo. There are a million multiplayer menus, but I found it pretty easy to just hop in at random. Sorry I can’t be more help than that, but I think it’s a great package for single player and probably a solid online multiplayer offering.

      • Jakob Peeker (@JakobPeeker) Says:

        Thanks for the answer! If the lag didn’t seem like that huge of a deal then that’s more than good enough for me I think.

        I got sick of the infinite spin in Tetris DS and got the homebrew DS port of Tetris: The Grand Master 3 working on my DSi, so I’m pretty set for single player tetris now. Probably gonna save up a bit and get Puyo Puyo Tetris for multiplayer and Puyo Puyo though, I never played Tetris multiplayer but always really liked Puyo Puyo multiplayer so getting both in one nice package will probably be worth the import price.

        TGM3 is freaking amazing so far btw

      • catstronaut Says:

        Thanks for responding!

        I really wish Arika would release a good version of Tetris The Grand Master for consoles, so I could see what all the fuss is about. They released one for 360 but apparently it’s really plain and… not good. I’d love for them to just port one of their arcade games.

        I should probably mention that the lag is more on the garbage blocks/puyo than anything. I don’t remember having any lag on my pieces, because that would just be terrible.

  3. player1 Says:

    Nice blog!

  4. Jakob Peeker (@JakobPeeker) Says:

    Yeah it sucks that there’s no nice console TGM version. If you have a DS and a flashcart I recommend the homebrew port, I’ve only watched videos of the real thing but it feels like a really solid game and from what I’ve read it’s pretty accurate. Has a nice training mode where you can set your starting level and all that stuff. The 20G mode is pretty much just me getting a few lines in before filling up the screen, but getting the pieces right is super satisfying and I can see myself getting really into it. Master mode is a lot more manageable to start with though.

    I also heard The Tetris Company are assholes and won’t let people release Tetris games if they don’t comply with pretty strict and boring guidelines, which the TGM gameplay is incompatible with.

    Good to hear about lag mostly affecting garbage, I’m getting pretty set on getting this game.

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