It’s no secret that the Nintendo Switch hasn’t had a flood of games being released since its launch in early March. You can take this fact any number of ways, but I choose to view it as a good thing, as I’d rather see developers take their time on titles rather than rush out a bevy of uninspired ports or multi-platform titles that don’t really take advantage of the Switch’s unique features. Regardless of your feelings, though, there’s a certain sense of excitement whenever a new game release approaches, and such is the case with the upcoming Puyo Puyo Tetris.
Puyo Puyo Tetris is actually a combination of two separate game entities - Puyo Puyo (or, as it’s better known in America, Puyo Pop), and the classic Tetris. The basic concept for each game is the same - position falling pieces to form patterns and keep the screen clear. The playstyle for each game, though, is very different.
If you’ve owned a game system, chances are high that you’ve played Tetris. Differently-shaped blocks (called Tetrominos) fall from the top of the screen, and the player must arrange them to form unbroken horizontal lines and keep the stack from growing too tall. Single lines can be cleared regularly, but clearing multiple lines at once (particularly four at once, called a Tetris) grants notable point multipliers - and beyond that, seeing a huge chunk of blocks vanish is immensely rewarding.
One notable piece of information about Tetris is that, aside from the unstoppable descent of the current piece, gravity does not exist within the playing field. “holes” in the horizontal lines exist until the area around them can be cleared and they can be filled by blocks. Because of this, the playing space can fill up rather quickly if mistakes are made, as each error requires a specific response from the player to correct it.
In Puyo Puyo, the pieces of made up of two colored gelatinous pieces that are connected together as a single piece as they fall. The singular piece can be rotated along the four cardinal directions as needed. Players clear the board by forming an unbroken connection of at least four identical pieces. Simply dropping pieces to make single combinations is easy to understand, but similarly to Tetris, forming combinations of clears is exponentially more rewarding, both in terms of score and personal satisfaction.
In the Puyo Puyo playing area, gravity does exist, and it forms the basis for extended combos. Pieces will fall if there is nothing below them, and this can lead to massive combos of clears. In the picture on the left, if the piece is dropped, it will become a 4-clear combo as the other pieces fall to fill the empty space.
One highlight (arguably, the biggest one) of Puyo Puyo Tetris is the multiplayer aspect of it. Up to four players can compete within the two game modes and seek to be the last player standing. The game also allows for teams to be formed, with any combination of 1-3 people per team. Normally, each player has the option of selecting which game mode they would like to play - but there is another option that forces all players to switch between the two game modes periodically. This can be used to level the playing field between two players, as well as force constantly-changing strategies based on the playing field. The players race to clear their field, and (optionally) fill their opponents’ screens with “junk” that must be cleared when they complete removal combinations.
Generally speaking, clears in Tetris tend to come more quickly and easily than in Puyo Puyo. With no restriction on the color each line is made up of, the pieces can more easily be manipulated into the positions necessary to form the horizontal lines. Furthermore, an optional “Hold” function allows Tetris players to keep a piece in reserve, swapping it out when needed for specific situations. Puyo Puyo requires more immediate thought and strategy to create the needed combinations, particularly when going for larger combinations. Because of this, when the two games are played in multiplayer, the “junk” aspect is balanced out so that the Puyo player will not be immediately overwhelmed by Tetris combinations, and an extended Puyo combination can completely eradicate a Tetris player unless they are able to counteract it with their own combinations.
Puyo Puyo Tetris also includes a single-player mode, for people wishing to hone their skills or simply enjoy the game without the frenetic pace of multiplayer. We don’t have a lot of detail on what the single-player campaign will be made up of yet, but advertising indicates that there will be 100 different stages with unique challenges to complete.
I downloaded the Japanese demo for Puyo Puyo Tetris, and it’s been a mainstay on my Switch since then. The menus are easy enough to figure out/understand, and the demo allows for unlimited plays of either 1P vs CPU(s), or 1-4 players. The English demo for the game was recently released, but I honestly can’t recommend it over the Japanese one, for one notable reason. In the Japanese demo, you can adjust the number of round wins needed from 1-3. In the English demo, you’re locked into single rounds only, meaning that after every game you have to go back through all of the menus just to continue playing. It’s an exceptionally dumb decision, and it makes playing the game much more of a chore than it should be.
Puyo Puyo Tetris launches on April 25th. I’ll be playing competitively online quite a bit - feel free to add me to your Switch friends list if you’d like to play sometime! NNID: Janusama
(Somewhat strangely, Nintendo’s website advertises the game as $29.99, but sites selling physical copies have it advertised for $39.99, albeit with a pack-in bonus of two keychains. It may be cheaper to purchase the game off Nintendo’s e-store, but that’s your decision. I’m a “physical copy” kind of guy, personally.)