The original Puyo Puyo Tetris was one of those strange combinations that didn't seem like it would work but was actually surprisingly moreish, sort of like whoever came up with the idea of cola chicken: a mad idea, without a doubt, but the results speak for themselves. Now Puyo Puyo Tetris has returned, and while at first glance it doesn't appear to have changed too much, there are at least a couple of new modes in here that should give fans something new to do, even if the initial surprise factor is now gone.

Much like its predecessor, Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 combines Sega’s Puyo Puyo series with The Tetris Company’s… um, Tetris. Players can choose to play either mode in solo play, or can combine them both in the strange Fusion mode, where both Puyos and Tetriminos drop into your playing area at the same time. Rest assured, if you have a preference for either of the two puzzle series and don’t really get along with the other, there are plenty of options here that will allow you to stick to your brand of choice. Well, for the most part.

The main heart of the game for solo players, as in the original, is the Adventure mode. Just like before, Adventure is a lengthy story mode where a variety of strange and eccentric characters get involved in a bizarre plot about the worlds of Puyo Puyo and Tetris colliding. Most of the characters from the original game’s Adventure mode return for the sequel and, after an adjustment period – many of them have forgotten the events of the first game and have to re-introduce themselves to characters they previously met – it’s full speed ahead again.

The first game’s Adventure mode had some genuinely hilarious dialogue, and this sequel is no different. Each of the many characters has their own quirky personality and the localisation has been handled masterfully, to the extent that even if you’re not one for storylines in your puzzle games you’ll still struggle to skip the cutscenes because you’re having too much fun with them: not necessarily in finding out what happens next, but how the characters react to each revelation in their own endearing way.

One potential issue that carries over from the first game’s Adventure mode, however, is that a number of stages require you to specifically play either Puyo Puyo or Tetris in order to proceed. If you really aren't a fan of one of them – or you’re great at one but hopeless at the other – you don’t really have much of an option. If you want to progress in Adventure, you’re going to have to learn to play each game to at least a standard that will let you beat a CPU opponent, never mind doing so convincingly enough that you’ll get three stars and clear a stage fully. If you can’t get along with Puyo Puyo, for example, you’re snookered almost right away because the first few stages force you to play it.

Of course, nothing we've told you up to this point is news to anyone who’s already played the first game. All the positives and negatives we’ve already discussed were very much present in the original Puyo Puyo Tetris, and you’d therefore be forgiven for wondering what exactly is new here. Well, the main new battle type, which is incorporated in the Adventure mode and can also be played locally or online, is called Skill Battle. This is a two-player battle mode in which each player puts together a team of three characters and takes part in a battle that has very mild RPG elements to it.

In Skill Battle, both you and your opponent have an HP meter. As you clear Puyos or lines, you’ll inflict damage on your opponent and lower their HP, while restoring some of your own. Naturally, if you can reduce your opponent’s HP to zero, then you win the battle. Winning Skill Battle matches will level up your team’s characters, which in turn increases the amount of HP you have, the amount of damage you do to your opponents, how well you defend their attacks, and so on. You can also collect cards that can be equipped to boost these stats.

The central mechanic in Skill Battles, however, is the skills (the clue’s in the name, you see). Each member of your team has a certain skill that can be triggered with the press of a button (assuming you have enough MP to do so). Clever use of these can be helpful when you need to get out of a tight jam: Tetris players can use the Assemble skill, for example, to shuffle your blocks together and remove any gaps you’ve made, while Puyo Puyo players may have the Change All skill, which turns entire rows of Puyos into the same colour.

Skill Battle is an interesting way to try and add more depth and strategy to Tetris and Puyo Puyo battling, but it also risks complicating what had already become a slightly complicated formula. Both games – Tetris in particular – became famous worldwide for their simplicity, and combining them removed some of that simplicity: granted, it still worked, but the barrier of entry rose a little. Add teams and skill moves and cards and levelling up and all those shenanigans on top of it, and you’ve got a game that, while still entertaining, can no longer claim to have a straightforward ‘pick up and play’ nature.

Once you’ve decided that you're good enough to take on the rest of the world, you can head online where there are a wealth of options available to you. As well as a Free Play section where you can create your own lobby and tweak the various settings to your own personal preferences, there’s also a ranked Puzzle League mode which is split into four separate ‘leagues’: the main Puzzle League (where you play with both Puyo Puyo and Tetris pieces), a Puyo Puyo League, a Tetris League and the Skill Battle League.

These separate leagues are especially welcome to players who don't want to entertain the prospect of playing both types of game. This reviewer, for example, has been an enormous Tetris fan for over three decades but could never really get into Puyo Puyo. In this situation, then, the Tetris League is extremely appealing. That is, it will be once people are actually online: the joys of a worldwide release date mean we couldn’t find a single match online during our pre-release review period. Based on the previous game’s online community, however, we have no doubt whatsoever that once the game launches, it won't be difficult to find a game and when you do – if it’s anything like its predecessor – it should be extremely stable.

Your mileage with Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 really depends on what your mileage was with the first game. If you played that extensively and are hoping that the sequel offers something similarly revolutionary to reignite your interest, you may be left slightly wanting. The new Adventure mode is clearly the biggest draw for solo players, delivering another entertaining story with the new Skill Battles adding a welcome layer of depth to proceedings. That said, the Skill Battles alone may not be enough to justify spending £34.99 / $39.99 on this sequel if you're already perfectly happy with the first. Make no mistake, this sequel is still great – it just isn’t wildly different.

Meanwhile, if the original Puyo Puyo Tetris passed you by for whatever reason but this one has caught your eye, the handful of new modes added here essentially make the original redundant. As such, this is the version you should be going for.

Conclusion

Puyo Puyo 2 could never have hoped to have the same impact as the first game did, but it remains a brilliant puzzle title nevertheless. While some may feel it's not quite different enough from its predecessor, the new single-player story is just as entertaining as the last one, and the Skill Battle mode adds interesting mechanics to the mix. It's still absolutely packed with content; it's just that the first game was too, so the impact is lessened slightly.