Sega's vibrant Puyo Puyo series is one of the most beloved and iconic puzzle games in the world, while Tetris is a block-shuffling legend dating back to 1984 that needs little introduction - but what brings these two legends together for Puyo Puyo Tetris 2? We sat down with Casey Pelkey, vice president and general manager of Tetris, to learn more about how the two puzzle legends first met up, to interrogate the key similarities - and differences - between both games, and to learn more about how Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 eases in fans of both series. One is about matching colors, and the other about clearing lines, as Pelkey explains… although, annoyingly, he won't tell us the secrets of the Tetris brand playbook. But there is a playbook.
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Casey Pelkey, vice president and general manager of Tetris
GamesRadar: How did the partnership come about and what made Tetris Company interested to ultimately move forward?
Casey Pelkey: SEGA approached us in 2012 to present the idea of the 'mash-up' and many within our Company were already familiar with Puyo Puyo and fans of the brand.
Having an opportunity to collaborate with SEGA and their talented development team made the decision an easy one, so plans were put in place to launch Puyo Puyo Tetris in Japan early in 2014 on handheld and console platforms. Several years later, the game was introduced to other parts of the world.
GR: What challenges did Tetris Company encounter as the crossover came to pass?
Pelkey: Collaborations like this can be tricky for a variety of reasons, but truth-be-told our challenges paled in comparison to the challenges faced by SEGA's development team. Finding the proper balance between both games was anything but trivial. Huge credit goes to their entire team for delivering an amazing puzzle game.
GR: What are the main differences in the skill sets of players of Puyo Puyo and Tetris?
Pelkey: Puyo Puyo players are focused on matching colors, while Tetris players are focused on clearing lines. Skilled players in both games have a unique ability to plan ahead to maximize their sequence of moves in order to score the most points and/or inflict the most damage in multiplayer modes. Puyo Puyo players who can execute large chains (Puyos popped consecutively) have the advantage. Tetris players who can perform T-Spins, Combos (consecutive Line Clears), and Tetris Line Clears with ease have the advantage. There's an ongoing debate on which type of player has the greatest advantage when they maximize these moves. Both sides make convincing arguments, but it's a debate that will likely continue on for many years to come.
GR: How do you see Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 fitting into the landscape of other riffs on Tetris, such as Tetris 99 and Tetris Effect: Connected?
Pelkey: All three games offer something unique to Tetris fans. Tetris 99 is all about the multiplayer experience with 98 other players, and hopefully being the last person standing in the room. Tetris Effect: Connected marries both visual and audio together for an amazing experience, and now offers really fun multiplayer modes. Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 delivers the ultimate puzzle match with a wide variety of game modes and multiplayer modes. A key Tetris message for the past five years has been 'We All Fit Together.' This year, we've evolved our message to 'We All Play Together.' Multiplayer features are the common thread. It's a great time to be a Tetris fan.
GR: What is at the core of the Tetris brand? What are the essentials that each riff on the game must capture?
Pelkey: The Tetris game Alexey Pajitnov designed over 35 years ago is without question core to the success of the brand. The more publishers stray away from the core game mechanics – as it was originally designed – the less captivating it becomes. I've witnessed this happen many times during my tenure with the brand. When someone sees the Tetris name, he or she often has very clear expectations. The Tetris game has evolved over past decades to make it more accessible to players, but at the end of the day, it's still Tetris – deceptively simple, endlessly addictive.
GR: Does this expand as far as a brand guidelines document - and what brand 'rules' might take people by surprise?
Pelkey: Yes, the brand guidelines help ensure we don't lose focus of what has helped make the Tetris brand one of the most iconic game brands in the world. The 'rules' that would surprise people the most are the ones we don't share openly...
GR: What is the key to making Puyo Puyo Tetris as accessible to newcomers as possible?
Pelkey: SEGA has once again done a brilliant job creating an optional tutorial system for the game. You don't really need to know anything about Puyo Puyo or Tetris to get started. The tutorial system explains both game types, and then allows you to demonstrate your proficiency before sending you off into other modes.
GR: What can the power of next-gen consoles bring to puzzle games such as Puyo Puyo Tetris 2?
Pelkey: Ironically, we recently joked on our social media channels how both Microsoft and Sony confirmed their next-gen consoles will indeed be powerful enough to play Tetris. It's no secret the Tetris game can be played on just about anything with a screen, so I don't think Puyo Puyo or Tetris fans have unrealistic expectations. The one thing that is often underestimated is the power of the online community these consoles will create over time. As these communities grow, there's more opportunity for puzzle fans and newcomers to embrace the game – especially at a competitive level.
GR: What new game types are you most excited for new players to try?
Pelkey: I think players will really enjoy the added depth the all-new Skill Battle mode brings to the game. In Skill Battle, players can form and compete with a team of three characters with unique skill sets. There are also special item cards that can be equipped to provide additional power ups. Players will then unlock more characters and item cards as they play both Skill Battle and Adventure modes, so everyone who invests the time to build out their collection will have countless hours of entertainment ahead of them.
GR: Why do you think both of these series have held such a long-term appeal?
Pelkey: Alexey Pajitnov is often asked the same question about Tetris, so I'll share his thoughts: 'Tetris is a simple game, it's both visually and intellectually challenging, and we all have an inherent desire to create order out of chaos. Tetris satisfies that desire. I'm sure many Puyo Puyo fans could relate to that as well.'
GR: Why do you think we are so drawn to puzzle games – and how can they help in such uncertain times?
Pelkey: Solving puzzles can be a highly rewarding experience, and most puzzle games don't require a significant amount of time commitment. Whenever you need a quick escape from the daily grind, you can often find it with your favorite puzzle game. If playing puzzle games leads to more effective problem solving in this world, it's a win-win scenario! Go play!
Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 launches on PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series S / X on December 8, with Steam to follow.