Puyo Puyo Tetris is a pleasant mashup of two iconic puzzle games that have been around for decades. As it was recently ported to Windows via Steam I decided to give it a go to see if there was finally going to be a worthwhile release of Tetris for PC.
Game: Puyo Puyo Tetris
Initial Release Date: February 6, 2014
PC / Steam Release Date: February 27, 2018
Developers: Sega, Sonic Team
Publishers: Sega, Deep Silver
Overall – 7/10
Overall, Puyo Puyo Tetris is currently the best offering for a puzzle game of this nature on Steam. It offers a solid version of both games with tight controls and satisfying feedback, entertaining multiplayer for casual and competitive play. cute added bonuses with adventure mode and its entertaining character interactions add some charm to the overall aesthetic. However, minor issues stain the game and make it seem less polished, and some issues in multiplayer prevent this from being a viable game at a highly competitive level. However, if you want a solid version of Tetris or Puyo, grab this. If you want to try out a clever mashup of the two offering solid gameplay for both individually as well as brand-new modes that are both challenging at a high skill level and fun in a casual environment, grab this. It is a competent mashup of two beloved puzzle games. Here’s my breakdown on the individual categories:
1. Visuals / Graphics – 4/5
Puyo Puyo Tetris offers a colorful, consistent cartoon art style that is polished and appealing. There is a charming cast of characters along with various backdrops and menu elements that all tie in to create a complete package. In gameplay, the visual style is readable and doesn’t create unnecessary distractions. Board boundaries, next blocks, ghost blocks, and movement are easy to track while still having enough flare to be fun to look at. Feedback via animations is satisfying without being overbearing and fills an expected range of visual cues. Aside from that, there are options in-game to customize how both Tetronimos and Puyos look based on player preference with skins ranging from classic styles from the original game, retro-inspired redesigns, glossy and modern takes, and complete pallet swaps. Overall, the final product does everything a puzzle game should in the visual department.
2. Interface – 3/5
While most menu interactions are user-friendly, there are some qualms about the layout and options of the game that take away from the user’s ability to quickly get where they need to go. While menu options are concise and easy to follow, some options may be confusing to get to without some exploring. Changing certain game options require a few extra steps, such as an endless marathon mode for Tetris being available as an extra, toggled option within the game settings of the score limit marathon. Other features such as the in-game shop for customization is tucked away along with options rather than having its own section without even allowing you to customize within the shop. Customization using purchased styles is done in the pre-game setup rather than in the shop itself. A final gripe that I personally held against the interface was the lack of options to quick-start a marathon match for both Tetris and Puyo. While the other features in this game are fun, simple game-modes like marathon play should be accessible front and center rather than tucked away alongside all of the other various modes.
3. Gameplay – 5/5
In terms of actual gameplay, Puyo Puyo Tetris is competent on all fronts. Keyboard controls are responsive, audio and visual feedback for chains and combos is constant and satisfying, and switching between boards mid-game via some of the more complicated game modes is always a smooth ride. There is an unprecedented variety in play for both Puyo and Tetris that allows for an enjoyable experience without needing to be equally skilled at both games.
4. Multiplayer / Online Functionality – 3/5
In terms of raw functionality and local multiplayer, there aren’t many issues to be had. The variety of game modes and support for 4 player team-based and free-for-all modes allow for fun in many different ways, however, the multiplayer aspect of this game, from my experience, has been stained with various blemishes. While 4 player modes are engaging and share the tight gameplay and fluid transitions that singleplayer does, Tetris & Puyo are unbalanced in a competitive setting as Puyo chains cause much more damage in terms of junk lines against a Tetris player than the Tetris player can reasonably retaliate with via Tetris combos. While this does push Tetris players to play the game differently, focusing on building combo opportunities in a new way, this causes the strategy to become a “how do I out-combo Puyo” meta-game rather than pushing skill in raw Tetris play. In lieu of unbalance, the ranked play offerings are highly unfair at the beginning as my first experiences were being matched up against insanely high-ranked Tetris players who would end the game within seconds. I would later find out that some of these obscenely skilled players were likely hackers as talk of cheating would become commonplace in forums and Steam reviews. Avoiding ranked play, free-play seems to offer various options for online fun, utilizing the various party-oriented game modes available in local 4-player, though it became impossible to find a free-play room either due to low player count or a potential issue on the game’s end. Overall, online functionality is there and works well if you can find some friends or a spare open free-play room, though issues with cheaters and unbalance seem to make this installment non-viable for highly competitive play.
5. Story / Progression – 4/5
There isn’t much needed in this department for a puzzle game, but Puyo Puyo Tetris offers a delightful story mode along with opportunities to progress within it. The story itself is delightfully cheesy with fully voiced character interaction and dialogue in cutscenes in a lighthearted tone that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Following characters through misadventures arising due to the collision of Puyo and Tetris, there is a charming combination of anime and gaming tropes along with wonderful voice work and clean, colorful art. Throughout adventure mode, players are offered various tutorial opportunities, should they not know how to play one of the game modes, and progress through a series of various combinations of Puyo v Tetris, Tetris v Tetris, Tetris v Puyo, and Puyo v Puyo. While story beats and game mode combos are a bit one-trick, the flow of gameplay forces players to practice and gain an understanding of both modes as CPU opponents become less forgiving as the game moves forward.
6. Soundtrack / Sound Design – 3/5
In terms of sound design, not much is required of a puzzle game. However, while this port does have solid sound work, some of its polish is negated by issues only present in the PC port and don’t affect console versions of the game. There are fun, simplistic songs that are fitting for a puzzle game and positive sound effects throughout gameplay. Characters yell out voice lines and attack names when triggering combos and the voice work is done spectacularly for every character. The downside to all this is that the PC port has issues where songs will randomly stop and start over rather than repeating as they should (they repeat correctly in the console versions) and some of the songs get annoying relatively quickly compared to other short tunes that are designed to fit the repeating background music formula. While there is great work done for the audio of this game, issues make it seem unpolished and broken which detracts from the overall auditory experience.
7. Other (Microtransactions, etc.) – 5/5
Puyo Puyo Tetris is inoffensive in the microtransactions front. All items in the cosmetic shop are purchased with in-game currency that is earned at a steady rate throughout normal gameplay. This currency also cannot be purchased with real money via any sort of microtransaction. Changes from these aquired items are purely cosmetic and include Tetronimo / Puyo skins and alternate voices for characters.