I love Tetris. It’s among my favorite video games of all time. Puyo Puyo…. isn’t too bad either. But I really liked the idea of Tetris colliding with another puzzle game franchise, even if it wasn’t one I was that familiar with at the time. And so I bought Puyo Puyo Tetris. It was a lot of fun, and while not the first time that this has happened (There was Tetris & Dr. Mario on the SNES), it stood out as a really good way to enable fans of two different falling-block games to compete with each other.
Fast forward to 2020, and I hear about (and write a preview for) a PPT sequel. Being someone who put a lot of time into the original (Earning a fairly high rating and rank 1 in my tiny corner of the universe), I was kind of excited. What new ways would they come up with to mix the two franchises together? Let’s get down to brass tacks with the Switch version of Puyo Puyo Tetris 2, released by SEGA on December 8, 2020.
Small disclaimer: This game is very, very similar to its original incarnation, so I will be attacking this review from the angle of what has been changed, updated, and improved (or not), as a puzzle game veteran.
The first new(ish) feature here in PPT2 is the updated story mode. Without plot details, the game features a new story that does directly follow up on the story from the previous title, except that most (though clearly not all) of the characters’ memories of the past have been suppressed, and a mysterious person or force is compelling many of the characters, both old and new, to have puzzle battles. Adventure mode also now features a map with branching paths and optional stages not required to reach the end instead of being 100% linear, which is a welcome change.
The whole story is kind of ridiculous but it’s also very often hilarious and full of crazy puns and other silliness. It legitimately makes you laugh and is good fun as long as you don’t in any way attempt to take it seriously.
Even if you don’t like it though, you’re going to want to play through it as it will get you acquainted with all the game modes, and in particular is essential for your enjoyment of a specific one (we’ll get to that soon). It’s also the way you unlock most of the characters, music, stages and other extras. If for some reason your humor detector is broken, you can easily skip all the event scenes and cut straight to the gameplay stages.
If you’ve played the first game, you might briefly wonder if you loaded up the wrong game when you start playing. The menus and every core feature of the original game are back and very little, even the visuals of the UI and game screen, has been altered much at all. Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, but everything is so “the same” that it comes off as something they could have spent more time on and were a bit lazy about updating. Every single mode from the original is back as well, including the local wireless mode unique to the Switch version.
The primary new thing in terms of gameplay is a new game mode: Skill Battle. This mode takes the traditional Versus mode and adds RPG elements, where you form a party of characters with different stats and abilities, level them up, and aim to reduce the opponent’s HP to zero with your attacks, rather than make the opponent top out (which just does damage instead of losing the game).
This is a fun and interesting idea, and it adds a distinctive strategy element to two puzzle games which already have deep strategy. The main problem (and a large one at that) is that you can only grow your party in Adventure Mode. Playing Skill Battles in local multiplayer (even against the CPU) or online does not award EXP.
This also means you have to grind your favored characters to the maximum in Adventure before even considering playing in League mode online, as no amount of Tetris or Puyo skill can overcome major stat or ability composition differences. Having to grind *before* you can really play multiplayer is a bit of a pain. That said, there are tons of character and ability combinations and this mode has a lot of potential. It’s a good addition that works out far better than the really slow-moving Fusion mode.
Despite my love of the original game, I did have some grievances. As far as puzzle games go, this one had some quirks with the controls. Primarily, the directional controls were too sensitive, leading to a lot of accidental presses of up or down on the D-pad (or buttons on the Joy-Cons), which is really a problem for a game like Tetris (and Puyo to an extent). This forced me to be very deliberate with my button presses, slowing me down in a game where speed and accuracy are really important. Further, the repeat delay is too slow for when you want to move all the way left or right and this wasn’t updated either.
Another Tetris game I love, Tetris 99, had an option to reduce the control sensitivity, primarily for the Pro Controller’s D-pad. This made the game so much easier to play, requiring ever-so-slightly longer button presses so that you wouldn’t hit up accidentally when changing directions.
To make a long story short, this control issue wasn’t addressed for PPT2, and it frustrates me to no end – it’s almost a dealbreaker. In fairness, the game seems to aim for the more casual player with four player support and wide range of modes as a party game. But it also features competitive online modes. This doesn’t seem to affect everyone, and maybe there’s a third party controller with a better D-pad that alleviates this issue, but I shouldn’t have to look at buying new hardware just to fix a control issue with one game.
One last thing to cover: online play. This is also mostly unchanged from the original, even the interface, which still (somewhat ironically given the lack of options elsewhere) has a ridiculous number of options in Free Play. Obviously Skill Battle is here now, both in the free-play mode and its very own League mode. SEGA also added separate League modes for Tetris-only and Puyo-only gameplay, alongside the original League with all the game modes that the original game had.
The addition of those Tetris– and Puyo-only modes ends up being both a blessing and a curse. Although I think it is very good for the most part, some players felt that the game balance for Tetris-vs-Puyo was less than perfect. That’s understandable, even if I don’t necessarily agree, as the leaderboards had plenty of both Tetris and Puyo mains. The problem is just that most players seem to be gravitating toward these new League modes, which kind of takes away from the core premise of this game: mashing Puyo and Tetris together.
In the classic League mode, I generally had to wait longer for opponents to appear, pushing me to play Tetris-only mode instead (I’m not quite as good at Puyo). Some people may celebrate this addition, and that’s fine, but I’m concerned about the impact it has on the core features of the game.
As noted before, very little has changed in the audiovisual department, and this is, honestly, mostly a good thing. I really enjoyed the whimsical, colorful cartoon style of the original, and they brought that back in its entirety, while also adding new stage backgrounds and new music. The new characters and their art also fit in perfectly with the existing ones.
The most important thing is the puzzle matrices and core gameplay elements all remain clear and distinct from the backgrounds and don’t overly distract you from a puzzle experience that requires a lot of focus for success. The game does seem to have a bit more flourish than the original when you make large line-clear combos or Puyo chains, but it isn’t overbearing and does make for a more exciting experience.
Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 is every bit as fun as the original, and as a result, it’s a great choice for people looking for a party game who missed out on the original release.
That said, the game unfortunately feels more like a DLC patch than a sequel title. And in spite of that feeling, they really didn’t improve any of the things that one might have complained about in the original game. Its release also kills off the community for the original game, so if you are a hardcore veteran of the original, it feels even more like you have to pay full price for a patch just to be able to play again, and a patch that doesn’t give you everything you wanted at that.
As a big fan of the original and of Tetris in general, it really pains me to give Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 this score. I really want it to be higher, but the persistence of the sensitivity problem had me throwing down my controller and cursing in rage too much to not be a factor. If you aren’t a serious Tetris or Puyo Puyo veteran, this probably won’t matter to you and you absolutely can have a blast. But if you are, there’s a good chance you’ll experience some frustration alongside the fun. It’s still worth playing, but the issues are too significant to ignore.
Review copy provided by SEGA for Nintendo Switch. Screenshots taken by reviewer.