Puyo Puyo and I have always had a complicated relationship. We’ve crossed paths over the years, and have occasionally flirted; but every time it seemed like it was going to happen, it always turned out that we were seeing other platforms.
When I first encountered the game back in 1996, I was working a summer job with Nintendo promoting the upcoming Nintendo 64 at Ontario Place, where we had a demo SNES unit with Kirby’s Avalanche—the Western localized version of Super Puyo Puyo—running daily. Needless to say, I played it OFTEN. I had next to no interest at all in Kirby or his weirdo friends, but I was genuinely intrigued in the game’s core puzzle mechanics and how they differed from Tetris in terms of aggression and one-upmanship.
Once I started to understand the basics behind stacking Puyos to create chains and instantly drop a mountain of garbage Puyos on my opponent, or felt the burning desire for revenge after the same tactics were visited upon me; I discovered just how frantic and fun a competitive puzzle game could be.
Ironically I didn’t own a Super Nintendo anymore (I had traded it in for a PlayStation the year prior), I had no interest in buying an N64 and I wasn’t that keen on the import scene back then, so I decided I would wait for a new version of Puyo Puyo to come out on a console that I did own or planned to own. Little did I know that then this would lead to the Puyo Puyo franchise and I constantly missing each other for over 20 years—with Puyo Puyo rarely showing up on consoles in North America, and when it did, it was never on any of my preferred consoles of choice. The infernal chase finally ended in 2019, when I finally caved and bought a Japanese copy of Puyo Puyo Tetris for PS Vita during my last visit to Japan (which of course, had no English language support, but was portable and made a great souvenir).
Apparently, Sega’s strange idea in to hitch Puyo Puyo’s wagon to Tetris in 2014 was indeed a smart one, as it ultimately led to the publisher seeing fit to start releasing fully localized Puyo Puyo-related games in North America on every major platform, including PC/Steam. Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 is the third such game, and the Steam version has finally arrived, trailing the launch of the console versions by nearly four months. So how has this version fared?
Well, as one would expect, Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 won’t be taking home any awards for its story. As nonsensical and saccharine as the plot of the first game was, this game doubles-down on the cringe—relying on the entire cast having lost their memories of each other just so they can all meet again for the first time. Essentially, the heroines: Ringo, Arle, Amitie and their fellow earthling friends who represent the Puyo Puyo universe are gradually reunited over the course of the story with the aliens Tee, Ess, O and others who are cleverly named after the different Tetriminos from the Tetris Universe.
As their two worlds are merging due to the alleged interference of a mysterious young girl named Marle, problems naturally ensue and the only way they can be solved is through friendly battles of Puyo Puyo and Tetris. Ringo even lays out the philosophy of the game franchise in one sentence: “When things don’t make sense, battle until they do.” Have wiser words ever been spoken?
In all fairness though, without the window-dressing that constitutes the plot, the solo campaign of this game would be nothing but a near-endless gauntlet of battles against random Puyo Puyo Tetris characters. While a stripped-down experience a-la Puyo Puyo Champions would likely appeal to professional players who just want to hone their skills, the inclusion of “Adventure Mode” serves as a great way to slowly introduce newcomers to this series, not to mention provide a reason for people who actually enjoyed the first game to pick up the sequel. Also, while the story and dialogue are about as irritating as I’ve described; the actual English voice talents behind the characters are quite good, in a Saturday Morning Anime Cartoon kind of way.
Arguably, this might give one the impression that Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 is a game primarily aimed at kids, and I’d likely agree with that assumption too if it weren’t for the difficulty. As puzzle games, both Tetris and Puyo Puyo have both earned the reputation of being easy to learn, difficult to master; and it’s not far into this game’s learning curve before the AI takes the training-wheels off, becoming an absolute beast of an opponent and forcing multiple retries. That’s not to say that the campaign battles become impossible to beat—but for players that hope to finish story mode without skipping battles (and yes, you can actually do that), they will need to learn and master the many intermediate and advanced techniques revealed in the game’s Practice Mode to significantly improve their chances of winning. It’s a worthwhile time investment, since the skills learned aren’t only directly transferrable to the game’s other modes, but also other standalone Puyo Puyo and Tetris games that use the same rules, such as Puyo Puyo Champions and Tetris Effect.
A new wrinkle that Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 adds that was not present in the previous game are “Skill Battles,” where each character in the game brings with them a special ability that can be used to tip the scales in their favour, such as the ability to turn a given number of “garbage Puyos” already sent over to one’s side from their opponent into red Puyos, potentially resulting in one or multiple “instant clears” depending on if there are enough red Puyos adjacent to the affected ones to create 4+ chains. Another ability might be to automatically clear all Tetriminos on the bottom two rows of one’s board, or to boost the defense of your allies and multiply damage dealt to your opponents.
Take note that I said allies and opponents—that’s because in Skill Battles, multiple characters can team up and combine their abilities to complement one another. Each character also possesses a passive ability that is always active (usually a health or defense boost for example), as well as special skills that have cooldowns to prevent players from abusing them. Items can be unlocked for each team and slotted-in for additional buffs as well. In Adventure Mode, skill battles occur when the story so dictates; but players who can’t get enough of them can also engage in such matches via the dedicated Skill Battle mode in Solo Play.
Beyond Skill Battles, Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 offers a host of other modes for solo players to spend hours upon hours battling in, such as Versus: a single match against one or multiple opponent; Swap: where opponents swap Puyo Puyo and Tetris game styles on a set timer; Party: an infinite lives, high score mode that drops in items that modify game behavior to an insane degree; Fusion: a mode that mixes Tetriminoes and Puyos on the same board which I’m still trying to get my head around; Big Bang: a time attack mode in which you directly damage your opponent by clearing successive Tetris lines or popping Puyo Chains as fast as you can; and Challenge Mode: which dares players to prove their Puyo Puyo Tetris prowess in six unique modes, like “Endless Puyo” or “Ultra Tetris.” Of course, there’s also Online Play and Local Multiplayer modes. While all these modes of play that I have mentioned may seem compartmentalized, there’s a lot of overlap. Just about every mode can add up to 4 human players or CPU opponents, and many can also be played in endurance mode, rather than just for a set number of matches.
Visually, Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 doesn’t try to fix anything that isn’t broken, sticking to the “elongated” anime art style and “elastic” animation that has served it well ever since Sega dared to cross-pollinate the two puzzle brands together. The music selection is rather limited and repetitive at first but becomes more varied as players progress further in the game, encounter new stages, try out new modes and unlock bonus BGM tracks. Speaking of secrets, there are 40 characters to unlock, including at least one that isn’t normally associated with the Puyo Puyo Tetris universe and looks an awful lot like a certain blue hedgehog. If that isn’t enough to satisfy diehard Puyo Puyo fans, there are dozens of background stages, character avatars and alternate voices to unlock too.
The question to ask yourself when deciding if Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 is your jam is an obvious one, but still worth emphasizing: “How much do you enjoy the core mechanics of Tetris and/or Puyo Puyo?” If you had fun with the original Puyo Puyo Tetris, or have enjoyed either Puyo Puyo or Tetris in their own standalone games (including their alternative guises, like Kirby’s Avalanche or Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine); you’re sure to enjoy this game enough to be able to put up with its few shortcomings. Like its predecessors, it’s incredibly quick to pick up and play for a few minutes on a coffee break, or even an hour or two on a lazy evening when you don’t want to commit to anything too involved or intense.
I played predominantly on my Windows laptop with an Xbox controller and almost always forgot I was using a PC when I did. Finally, at $34.99 CAD on Steam the game’s price is just about right for what you’re getting, and is considerably cheaper than its console equivalents too, making it a more attractive buy even if you’re just casually interested.