Seriously, curse those weirdly expressive puyo globs.
For about two years since its release in Japan, a friend of mine kept talking about this game. “Import it. Buy it,” he would say. Not out of concern for my well-being at the joys a puzzle game like Puyo Puyo Tetris would bring to my otherwise uneventful life, mind you (and it has). His motivations, I’ve come to realize over the years, are mostly born from his odd fascination with seeing how he could convince others to do things. His suggestive manipulation finally worked—damn him—albeit just this past Christmas when I was looking for a present for my sister.
Yep, just in time for me to buy it right before a localization was announced for the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.
It’s alright though because I’ve spent a couple of afternoons diving into the wonderful world of Puyo Puyo Tetris’ addictive gameplay. I’m considering my purchase a training lesson so that come April 25, when the game launches West, I can kick all of my would-be challengers’ butts. In theory, this is my goal. In reality, I’m having a hard time executing the proper techniques involving the Puyo Puyo part of the game.
My confidence in Tetris is not the problem. Tetris and I have been well-acquainted for a very long time, which probably rings true for many of you as well. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to play the Game Boy Advance’s 2002 release of Puyo Pop, the earlier re-skinned version of the game in 1996’s Kirby’s Avalanche for the SNES, or any of the subsequent DS and Gamecube games for Puyo Puyo Fever. My training with the series, then, began just over a month ago. I wish I had played much sooner than that.
The concept is simple: pairs of puyo faces rain down on the board one at a time. They’re sometimes paired with same colours, sometimes mismatched. Once four or more like-coloured puyos connect, these will be cleared. In Tetris, building and clearing four lines at once is a desired effect. In Puyo Puyo, it’s a different story. Stacking puyos and setting them up to fall into place to cause a chain reaction is key.
For instance, stacking angry-eyed red puyos on top of sleepy-faced (indifferent?) yellow puyos with continued layering, may allow for a chain combo when just the right puyos fall down. Reds can align with more angry puyos once sleepy yellow puyos are cleared. As careful combos are cleared away, the more points a player can get for chaining. These chains, in VS mode, will stack grey trash to an opponent’s board, deviously blocking them from creating chains. This may send rivals scrambling to create new stacks to clear in order to get rid of the greys. Too many chains mean certain death for the opposing player.
It seems simple enough but as I’ve discovered this past month, I can’t quite grasp how to carry out a chaining sequence in a quick, effective manner. My lack of speed is proving to be my biggest failing in a game with various modes that requires sharp thinking and reflexes.
Puyo Puyo Tetris has quite a number of modes on the VS side of play. In one I’ve been enjoying a lot lately, players can get power ups to mess with each other’s boards. A lamp power up can throw an opponent into almost complete darkness with a swinging lamp as the only source of light for a few seconds, for example. Other times, Tetriminos can get attachments and become misshapen, which makes for a trickier playing field. In other modes, players can choose to play solely Tetris against a Puyo loving combatant.
A favorite of mine, however, is the aforementioned Swap mode in which the game switches between Puyo Puyo or Tetris for timed increments. This mode is the devil. As my sister and I have come to find that playing against the computer, even when we’re in a team together, has been soul crushing. Our number one nemesis is this blue-haired, fan-waving harpy right here:
For most games, my brilliant, halfway evolved fish character (who speaks way too much and continues long after everyone else has said their piece) and I can manage maybe a x2 chain. My personal best was a x5 chain triggered completely by a fluke. But mostly, my sister and I experience absolute massacre because we’re just not quick enough on the Puyo side of things for our strategy to matter too much.
This is often the screen I’m left staring at:
But this is the screen I want more often than I’m getting:
I haven’t mastered stacking, key rotations and apt combinations with the desired speed to trigger Puyo greatness. It’s driving me mad and has me worried that I’m going to get destroyed when friends challenge me to games.
Whatever the case may be for the future, I’m training up and having a blast while doing so even if I’m losing constantly. That’s not going to stop me from trying to become a Puyo Puyo Master, however. But I’ll have to be careful because I better not let my Tetris skills falter either.
When I start dreaming about those puyo faces, I’ll know I’m ready.
All images via PS4 screen capture
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