Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 knows that it's onto a good thing, because this sequel slowly, carefully piles on the foundations left by the 2017 original. Everything that was likeable about the original, from its breezy design to well-judged mashup modes, is back and pretty much left untouched, while the few noticeable changes only serve to enforce the game's original charms.
The major change is Skill Battle, a new mode that essentially turns Puyo Puyo Tetris into an old-school JRPG battle. Seriously. You have a party of three, each with their own health, attack, defence, recovery and MP stats. You can also equip special skills that you'll use in battle, which you can swing the battle in your favour or help you recover some health should you be struggling, and you can also equip items that help boost your stats. Yep, this is all for a puzzle game where you try to solve Puyo Puyo puzzles or Tetris trials as quickly as possible. I don't blame you if your initial thought is: it shouldn't really be this complicated.
Prepare for (Skill) Battle
And yet, it somehow works. In practice, Skill Battle manages to be both easy to understand and a compelling wrinkle to the modes that Puyo Puyo Tetris introduced in the original. There's two reasons for this. Firstly, all the RPG trappings might be important before the game, but once you're in it, you're still playing Puyo Puyo or Tetris, and this means you can focus on just trying to send garbage Puyos or blocks to your opponent as quickly as possible.
Secondly, the skills you use are neatly implemented and have obvious effects. For instance, you play until your health has depleted, so even if your board gets filled up, you can still play on if you have some HP left. That's why the Recover skill, which tops up your HP instantly, can be cannily deployed if you're in danger, keeping you in the battle even after you lose a board. Or, others, like the Terraformer skill, make a row of lines appear so you can get a quick Tetris, dealing damage to your opponent. Because each character's skill is triggered by a single button push (Square, Triangle, and R2), it's simple to quickly turn the tide of a fight, while there's balance in the form of MP, which depletes every time you use a skill and means players can't spam.
Okay, it's not the easiest concept to explain, but if you've ever played a Tetris battle game, such as Tetris 99, you'll be able to quickly pick up Skill Battle. It's both familiar enough to quickly get to grips with, as well as distinctive enough to feel fresh and novel in a way that makes me excited to pit my skills against other players online. The breadth of skills on offer, as well as a levelling up system for your characters, means that there should be plenty of depth on offer.
We're going on an Adventure
Now, if you are wondering how you unlock all these items and characters for Skill Battle, then it's time to head on an Adventure. Oh sorry, I mean, head to the returning Adventure mode, which acts as both the game's story mode and as a way to get you up-to-speed with Puyo Puyo Tetris. From what I've played so far, it's as delightfully twee as the original's story mode, with tongue-in-cheek lines that sell how daft everything is. While it's fair to say it can be an acquired taste, it's hard to see how it won't delight the converted.
On top of that, a few little tweaks help make Adventure mode a tad more welcoming. The overworld map now has a bit more personality, with the new Auto difficulty mode is a welcome addition, keeping things engaging without ever making them too easy or tough. With the added incentive of unlocking items for Skill Battles, it promises another slice of enjoyable, personable puzzling fun.
The original Puyo Puyo Tetris turned out to be an unexpected bellwether, spinning Tetris in a new direction years before Tetris Effect and Tetris 99 followed in its experimental path. While this sequel doesn't change too much from the original, at this early stage, it seems to have a stronger sense of its strengths, with Skill Battle the latest successful attempt at proving Tetris is pretty addictive no matter what context you put it in.
Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 launches on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One, and Nintendo on December 8, with a PC release in early 2021.