Puyo Puyo Tetris

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. Puyo-Tet-Mix mode merges them onto one play grid: your next block may be a four square tetrimino or a two-blob puyo, the former filling up the screen as it lands at  the bottom, with the latter resting on top of your stack. Falling tetriminoes temporarily dislodge any puyos in their path with a satisfying squidge, but puyos reappear atop the landed blocks. This lends the game an extra layer of strategy, since the puyos’ new location may well line them up with others of the same colour, prompting a new chain, while any junk blobs squashed by the tetriminoes disappear completely. The biggest points come from sparking a mixed chain of the two types of blocks with a single move.
There’s an arcade madness to it that can be ludicrously difficult but highly rewarding
Balancing both sets of puzzles in Puyo Tet Mix mode requires focus, but Swap mode demands even more. Here the grid alternates between Tetris and Puyo Puyo games at timed intervals, requiring you to remember what is 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 like shaped 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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