It wasn’t that long ago when Puyo Puyo was a mostly unknown franchise outside of Japan. Barring some fringe releases here and there, Sega seemed mostly content with allowing it to stay that way. That all changed with the release of Puyo Puyo Tetris in 2017, which was a roaring success worldwide. Since then, the Puyo Puyo brand has seen more support outside of Japan, with games such as Puyo Puyo Champions. The latest and greatest in those games is the sequel to what kicked off the series’ western support, Puyo Puyo Tetris 2.
If you’ve played the original Puyo Puyo Tetris, then the story here will be familiar to you. The dimensions between Puyo and Tetris are beginning to merge and weird things are happening all across the world as Tetris-shaped blocks rain down from the sky. People are acting unusually hostile and crave battle, and at the center of it all is a mysterious new figure that hails from neither the Puyo nor Tetris dimensions. There are some twists along the way as more and more characters are introduced, as is standard fare with these stories. That said, it rarely ever loses that simple, silly Saturday morning cartoon flair that usually characterizes the zany nature of Puyo’s increasingly strange universe.
Everyone’s also lost their memories of the original Puyo Puyo Tetris even occurring, though the events of that game are still important to this one. If you’ve played both, it becomes sort of eerie seeing the way characters repeatedly struggle to remember things they know have happened before.
Overall, the story doesn’t take itself very seriously at all and is acutely aware of its own absurdity. Rather than ignore this, it leans into how ridiculous it is for a series of gags, jokes, and character interactions that stick the landing nearly every time. It knows exactly what it is and what it wants to be, and pulls it off effortlessly.
Something to note between this game and its predecessor is that Puyo Puyo Tetris 2’s script plays it more closely to the original Japanese script. One issue that longtime fans noticed with the first crossover game’s script was the egregious amounts of creative license used when localizing it. This led to many scenes either stripping some characters of their nuance or adding details that were totally absent in the Japanese script, leading to many inconsistencies. While Puyo Puyo’s “canon” is already loose and nebulous, most would agree that consistent characterization is still important. I’m very happy to see those issues completely rectified in this outing.
What’s Old is Gold
With more than 30 years under both their belts, Puyo and Tetris are both godfathers to the competitive puzzle game genre. Despite having many sequels and iterations over the years, the core gameplay and appeal to both remains largely untouched here. Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 adheres to the age-old philosophy of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” to good success.
In Puyo Puyo, you’ll find yourself playing a matching game, lining up jelly-like objects called Puyos in an attempt to fill up your opponent’s screen with ‘garbage’ Puyo. While a simple game on the surface, Puyo has almost endless depth within that simplicity—its timelessness and strong competitive scene attest to that. It’s not just about making a big combo of Puyos, it’s about deliberation and mind games, doing things to make your opponent trip up or slow down. It’s a risk between having your own screen be filled with Puyos for a big combo to destroy your opponent, while also knowing that building a combo leaves you all the more susceptible to a sudden loss. It’s often likened to a fighting game, and I find that comparison to be quite apt. It’s as thrilling as it is hard to get to grips with, but once you do, it’s hard to put down.
The other half of the game, Tetris, is all about raw speed and technique. While it remains the easy-to-understand game of clearing columns and rows with differently shaped and colored blocks, it’s also evolved in more subtle ways. There’s a heavy emphasis on racking up enormous combos and having a good reaction to the attacks your opponent sends your way. T-Spins, good block building, and keeping cool under pressure are the main ingredients to victory.
Though these games are built on different design ethos, they mesh together with some surprising effectiveness. Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 brought about many changes to the balancing as well, whereas in the original it was notoriously in Tetris’ favor. While still not perfect, you are much more likely to succeed no matter which playstyle you pick.
Modes, Modes, and more Modes
While the original game was certainly not short with modes to play, the sequel sees fit to crank the dial up to 11. There are so many modes, I’m not sure what to do with them all. Though not all of them are winners, there are more than a few ways to spice up the game.
The most prominent mode is Swap, a favorite among competitive players. Here, you’ll periodically switch between both Puyo and Tetris, and whoever is able to beat the player on any one game mode is the winner. While this seems fairly standard at first, the fun of this mode comes in the added element of timing. If you’re on the verge of losing in one game mode, you can stall out the clock until it switches to another and give yourself a new lease on life. If you’re in an advantage in one game mode but are about to lose in another, you can send an attack just as you’re about to switch and transfer that attack to the other board. There are a lot of potential strategies that can be employed, and those are just the bare basics. It adds a surprising layer of tension to an already delightfully stressful game.
The second most prominent mode is Fusion Mode, which has both players play a single game that combines elements of both Puyo and Tetris simultaneously. Pieces can be composed of both Puyo blobs and Tetris blocks, and most of the challenge comes from trying to successfully be able to make combos of both elements at once. Unfortunately, this is my least favorite mode by a significant margin. While the idea of having a game with both styles at once is ambitious, it ultimately lacks the elegance of either due to unsatisfying mechanics and combo building. It feels like a more confused mode that only seems complex, but it really isn’t. It’s also a far slower game than both, removing some of the pick-up-and-play appeal.
The big new addition to this game is Skill Battle, a mode that combines RPG elements with standard Puyo and Tetris fare. Normally, characters in Puyo Puyo are little more than window dressing that don’t actually affect how you play the game, but in this mode it’s different. Each character now comes with a skill that can completely alter the flow of gameplay, and players also now have a health bar and take calculated damage. It’s a mode that has a pretty different appeal from the other game modes, and it is deeply unbalanced, but it does wind up being fun in a fascinatingly messy way.
Smaller modes from the first outing also make a comeback and seem largely unchanged. Party Mode, a more casual mode based around racking up a high score with items that change how you play, is fun for a group of friends. Big Bang Mode, a frantic mode centered around dexterity and racking up bigger combos than your opponent in a limited timeframe, is a blast in short bursts. There’s also Challenge Mode, exclusive to single-player, wherein you’ll have a variety of ways to be tested with the game’s core mechanics to clear different objectives. Challenge Mode is the best if you’re looking for something that is most true to the experiences of both games.
Tutorials and Accessibility
The competitive worlds of Puyo Puyo and Tetris are merciless and cutthroat, and the combination of both has only exacerbated that. Before you try to go online, it’s best to first get to grips with the game’s many strategies through its incredibly generous and comprehensive tutorials. Despite being a sequel, this game is very accommodating and welcoming to new players, and even old players might have something to learn by checking out the in-game guides. There’s a variety of strategies to be taught, as well as different building methods to encourage different playstyles.
Helping this further is the game’s overall dedication to accessibility. Small things like rumble and visual feedback, to bigger things like options for visually impaired players help to make an experience that’s hard not to be comfortable with. The game offers a pretty incredible suite of control and customization options, allowing you to attune yourself to it however you like. If you happen to be playing on a Steam Deck, which it’s fully compatible with, you can rest easy knowing that the control options have got you covered there, too.
Once you are ready to hop into online play, you’ll find razor sharp netcode compounded by an incredibly flexible lobby and matchmaking system. Throughout my entire time playing online, I was never met with anything less but a perfectly smooth and easily comprehensible experience.
Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 is nothing short of exceptionally expressive. Running on Hedgehog Engine 2, which powered the likes of Sonic Forces and Sakura Wars, it takes a vastly improved engine to improve presentation in many ways. Animations are far more fluid, dynamic, and colorful while also being restrained enough to never feel distracting. Character designs are equally excellent, with a unique art style that blends cartoon flair with poppy anime designs that helped define Puyo Puyo to begin with. It’s an excellent match for two different games that originate from two different cultures, and things blend so seamlessly that the end result feels almost effortless.
To sweeten the deal, sound has also seen an improvement since the original Puyo Puyo Tetris. While the original did not sound bad by any stretch, the audio sometimes felt directionless, this was especially the case with the English voice acting. Although the English audio had excellent casting and was overall a pleasant listen, it was also inconsistent, thanks partly to the aforementioned creative license used in its localization. In Puyo Puyo Tetris 2, however, this issue has been completely resolved, and the voice acting is far more consistent and pleasant to listen to. Jokes land, the occasional serious moments are kept serious, and everyone delivers their lines with energy that feels appropriate for a game like this. It’s to a point where I barely bothered with the Japanese audio, it’s that good.
The music is also excellent, it’s a great blend of classic songs from both franchises, as well as new tracks that fit the trance-like states that these games often induce. There’s also a few tracks added from Sega’s overall music catalog, most notably a few songs from the Sonic series making it in. Overall, the presentation in this game is top notch, it’s quite possibly the best looking and sounding game in the series.
You don’t see puzzle games that are as ambitious and well-executed as Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 very often. While not every single idea it offers fully sticks the landing, the broad majority of it vastly outclasses the majority of games that are like it. Puyo and Tetris have been around for a long time, and if you want the best of both worlds, look no further.
PUYO PUYO TETRIS 2 IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to SEGA for a PC review code for this title.
Support High-Quality And Detailed Coverage
Want to support the cost of us bringing you these articles or just buy us a coffee for a job well done? Click the Ko-fi button below. You can even find some digital goodies in our shop~!
A hobbyist who took up the pen to write about their favorite pastime: games. While a lover of many genres, Isaiah Parker specializes in Platformers, RPGs, and competitive multiplayer titles. The easiest way into his heart is to have great core gameplay mechanics. Self-proclaimed world’s biggest Sonic fan. Follow him @ZinogreVolt