Sonic Team proves two puz­zlers can be bet­ter than one


Tetris is ar­guably the best puz­zle game yet made: its premise is simplicity it­self, its end­less na­ture and lack of win state as com­pul­sive as gaming gets. Puyo Puyo is bet­ter known in Ja­pan than the west, but its rules are equally straight­for­ward (match four coloured blobs) and its ap­peal as univer­sal.

De­vel­oped by Sonic Team, Puyo Puyo Tetris is a fu­sion with a wealth of play modes, in­clud­ing stand­alone ver­sions of each game. Th­ese are avail­able to play solo or in matches of up to four play­ers, lo­cally or on­line, with each se­lect­ing their puz­zler of choice. Score big with T-spins, back-to-back com­bos or per­fect clears to dump junk blocks on your foes’ grids, push­ing them to­wards a game over.

But the two most ab­sorb­ing modes are the ones that ask you to play both ti­tles at once. hap­pen­ing in both and strate­gise ac­cord­ingly. There’s a fran­tic ar­cade mad­ness to it that can be lu­di­crously dif­fi­cult but highly re­ward­ing.

In Big Bang mode, the player must fill gaps on a pre­ren­dered Tetris board with like­shaped tetrim­i­noes (Lucky At­tack) or find the right spot on a Puyo Puyo board to trig­ger a combo chain that will clear all the blobs in one go (Fever Mode), all with the pres­sure of a tick­ing timer. Mov­ing quickly means clear­ing more stages be­fore time runs out.

For­tu­nately, there’s a com­pre­hen­sive set of tu­to­ri­als to help you get your head around it all, of­fer­ing be­gin­ner and ad­vanced tips for th­ese game types. Fi­nally, there’s a story mode, in which an­thro­po­mor­phised Tetris and Puyo Puyo char­ac­ters prof­fer chal­lenges such as clear­ing a spec­i­fied num­ber of lines within a set time, reach­ing a cer­tain num­ber of points, or sim­ply beat­ing the CPU op­po­nent. The pack­age is pre­sented in bold colours with a chunky car­toon style, and character voices egg play­ers on and call out the names of spe­cial moves as though it were a fight­ing game, lend­ing an ac­tion-like sheen that suits a com­pet­i­tive play ses­sion. The in­clu­sion of a new ver­sion of the clas­sic Tetris theme mu­sic, based on Rus­sian folk song Korobeiniki, is an ad­di­tional sonic treat.

By mix­ing to­gether two clas­sic puz­zle games, Sonic Team has some­how man­aged to find ways to im­prove upon them both, with modes to suit new­com­ers and hard­core fans alike. And yet while Ubisoft’s Tetris Ul­ti­mate pre­pares to land on sev­eral plat­forms and in ev­ery ter­ri­tory to mark the se­ries’ 30th an­niver­sary, Sega’s ti­tle cur­rently re­mains con­fined to Ja­pan only, a sit­u­a­tion as puzzling as any num­ber of mis­matched blocks.

Still, the in­tu­itive me­chan­ics and min­i­mal re­liance on text make Puyo Puyo Tetris an easy im­port, and with ver­sions al­ready out for 360 PS3, Wii U, Vita and 3DS, plus PS4 and Xbox One ver­sions soon to drop, it should slot neatly into any player’s li­brary.

Men­tal blocks

Since lit­tle coloured blobs or four-block shapes don’t have much per­son­al­ity, in Puyo Puyo Tetris they have been an­thro­po­mor­phised into cute car­toon char­ac­ters, each with their own back­story. Th­ese in­clude J and L as man­i­fes­ta­tions of the Tetris pieces of those shapes, so eas­ily con­fused for one another dur­ing play and thus ren­dered here as twins. There’s also I, a cowardly but smart dog who bizarrely is the Tetris space­ship crew’s en­gi­neer. There’s a plot, too: the Tetris char­ac­ters have fallen from the sky (of course) into the puyos’ world, and a ri­valry be­tween them spurs many story mode chal­lenges, though ev­ery­one seems to tes­sel­late pretty well even­tu­ally.

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