The first Switch game I fell in love with was Puyo Puyo Tetris. I’ve made no secret of my fondness for Sega’s flagship puzzle series, but since those earliest days of the system there’s been more competition in the tile matching genre. Other Puyo Puyo releases old and new plus Tetris 99 kept its constituent parts in mind, Nintendo actually said “Panel de Pon” outside of Japan, and new indies like Petal Crash have made their presence known.
Even with that many contenders, though, there can only be one king.
Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 does everything its predecessor did and more, and it continues to do it exceedingly well. In the extensive time I’ve had with the final build, every moment spent playing was one in grid-based bliss. It doesn’t reinvent any of its base parts, but the additions it does make and the touched up presentation, combined with just how perfect a mix it was back in 2017 (and even further back in 2014) makes this a must have game for puzzle fans.
Familiar pieces, familiar friends
Loading up Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 will be very familiar to anyone who played the first game or even the smaller scale Puyo Puyo Champions. The vibrant main menu breaks things up into six neat categories, each of which has some new elements and ideas.
If you’re new or inexperienced with Puyo Puyo or Tetris, PPT2’s Lessons mode is a great first stop. Its main game modes are explained briefly, but the real benefit comes from the expanded Problem sections for both puzzle types. By sticking with these, you’re tasked with pulling off substantial chains and T-Spin combos and get more accustomed to higher level techniques.
For me, though, the first stop was Adventure. The game’s story mode has been changed up slightly, with a new world map style presentation as opposed to the more straightforward menu. It’s mostly an aesthetic difference (and you can pull up a quicker menu) but it add’s some extra charm.
That said, charm is something Adventure wasn’t lacking. Bringing Puyo Puyo’s varied and quirky cast back together with their Tetris themed friends from the first game had me grinning from ear to ear. While I won’t be discussing specific plot points, the tone swaps between outright comedy and something a little more serious (and I use that term loosely) while giving every playable character (including newcomer Marle) a few moments to shine.
If you’re not overly familiar with the Puyo Puyo cast’s personalities and relationships – most of the series has remained unlocalized – some parts may go over your head. Thankfully the more tongue-in-cheek elements of the first game’s script and the likable English cast can still carry the experience. The Japanese dub is also readily available for anyone more accustomed to those voices.
As much as I love the delivery of Puyo Puyo Tetris 2’s story, there is some repetition here. Pretty much the entire span is “cutscene – battle – cutscene”, with those battles being an assortment of the game’s versus modes. My favorite, Swap, is still present and accounted for but is no longer the main attraction. It may not come up in Adventure all too much, but the new to PuyoTet Skill Battle is here to vie for your attention.
Not the most skilled addition
Skill Battle shakes things up by letting you form a party of three characters. Each has stats and (more importantly) abilities that are usable as you Puyo or Tetris battle. These can range from changing the color of your Puyos, stopping garbage blocks from falling, or giving various stats boosts and HP recovery. Yes, you have a life bar, and some of the tensest matches I’ve had have been fought over trying to keep the dream alive with just a little life left.
I wouldn’t bill this as a full RPG battle system, but it is somewhat inspired by one. As you play Skill Battles in Adventure, you’ll even gain items to supplement your team and build up experience points. Unfortunately, things somewhat end there.
The handful of Skill Battle stages were the only means of “grinding”, limiting the scope of this addition. Had there been a more dedicated mode for Skill Battle, even something as simple as Endurance, I feel I’d be playing it more. Being able to mix, match, and combine skills can be interesting when you take the time to plan out a cohesive team.
There is post-release content planned for the game, so hopefully something along those lines is in the works. Its balance is also somewhat suspect, a problem Puyo Puyo Tetris is already familiar with thanks to the differences between its base parts. For now, though, Skill Battle feels more similar to the various Party games than it does Swap or the other “competitive” modes in the online Puzzle Leagues.
A more than serviceable sequel
Visually, the presentation has been improved across the board, with characters getting new artwork and more impressive effects in battles to compliment the puzzle-action. Pulling off large chains and Tetrises has your character take over the background, and tight offsets make you and your opponent clash in the same space. The six years between this and PuyoTet’s original release have been very kind to it when it comes to that aspect.
As mentioned, though, nothing on offer in Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 is particularly new. I could direct you to my original Puyo Puyo Tetris review and nearly all of it would still apply here. Even Skill Battle was previously featured in the unlocalized 3DS title Puyo Puyo Chronicle, though obviously without the Tetris features. For the most part, what we have is a more polished and supported version of an already great idea.
The biggest difference between the first crossover and this sequel, then, is timing. I put dozens, if not hundreds, of hours into the first game but there’s stiffer competition for my times and yours on the system these days. I’m currently at over twenty hours of Puyo Puyo Tetris 2, and while I’m not as addicted as I was with the first game, nothing felt old. Rather, it all felt comfortable and familiar.
My gameplay time is definitely going to climb, but if you’re set in your ways with the first Puyo Puyo Tetris then there’s no shame in waiting. With that in mind, though, Puyo has grown well in the west over the last three years and PPT2 has the benefit of releasing on every system out there, current and next gen.
As is the case for any iterative, online title you’ll definitely want to keep up with this latest release. Thankfully there’s a more dedicated English scene for the series now, making that a more welcome prospect compared to 2017. If precedent holds, Switch will also have the most active Puyo community around it. Even if that’s not for you, this entire genre feels most comfortable in handheld, so Nintendo wins out again for this release.
No offsetting this one
Much of what I’ve put forth here has been aimed at Puyo and puzzle fans in general. If you don’t know a GTR from a Double Triple Cannon, what’s in it for you? Frankly, not as much. Tetris and Puyo Puyo both found their footing a long time ago, and in a lot of ways this is some of the best they’ve both ever been.
The blend of likable characters with gameplay that can be tense and brutal when mastered has always appealed to me, just as it does in fighting games. If you’ve only got a passing familiarity with Tetris, or Puyo’s aesthetic catches your eye, then I challenge you to at least give this one a try. There’s a thrill in learning new games, and with this crossover you’re in the presence of two lines of royalty. Even if that still doesn’t win you over, that’s your loss. I can easily call Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 one of the best puzzle games around, and the undisputed competitive king.
System: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: December 8, 2020