In a year that's continuously exceeded expectations, you weren't going to bet against Puyo Puyo Tetris being anything less than outstanding, were you? SEGA's gaudy puzzle-'em-up is a real joy, blending the breakneck brick building of Tetris with the more methodical splotch popping of the less-popular Puyo Puyo – sometimes on the same board.
The Russian tile-matching title should need no introduction: it's been an ever-presence on games consoles since its inception in the mid-eighties, and its roster of tetromino shapes are almost as iconic as the industry's most recognisable characters. Puyo Puyo, despite spawning over 20 instalments in its native Japan, is less of a household name – it's perhaps best known on these shores for being re-skinned as part of SEGA spin-off Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine.
But despite appearing in the same game, these falling block stalwarts couldn't be more different. Tetris is all about quick-thinking, as you carefully construct towers with a view to dismantling them in the most obsessively compulsive way imaginable. Its counterpart here, however, tasks you with thinking ahead, as you assemble coloured blobs in a manner that creates combos.
For those who don't know, Puyo Puyo is a colour-matching game, where four or more similarly hued globules need to be aligned in order to make them explode. Popping four of the blighters is simple enough, but the challenge comes from assembling them in a way where a single explosion can trigger several more; the key is to break up your construction so that you can reap the rewards later on.
Given the variations between the two, SEGA's seemingly achieved the impossible by bringing them together so compellingly, with Fusion mode tasking you with clearing lines and popping Puyos all at the same time. It's complicated and chaotic, but it's a brilliant novelty, and showcases just how much thought has been put into making this package sing.
It's the only time the two titles collide on the same stage, however: the majority of the game will see you either playing Tetris or Puyo Puyo – or perhaps a lively alternation between the two. Competitive play is very much the emphasis here, as the anime-infected Adventure mode whisks you from stage-to-stage, where you'll need to be on top of your game in order to send blocks across to the board of your adversaries.
The game's loud and in-your-face; those expecting some laidback brick-building may find Puyo Puyo Tetris somewhat of a sensory overload. But in its intensity it finds its own voice: this is a game that's best enjoyed in multiplayer, with the stage frantically flipping between game types and each victory recognised by rowdy hooting and hollering. There are more traditional endless modes included in the package, but they're not the main draw, and that's evidenced by the fact that they're buried away in the menus.
Needless to say, despite its inviting aesthetic, this is not an easy game. The aforementioned campaign – spanning over 100 challenges tied together by a tedious story line – does a good job of gradually easing you into the action, while there are a series of in-game lessons (and even some great online guides) to educate you on the finer aspects of puzzling perfection.
And you may need to graduate from Puyo Puyo Tetris university with first class honours if you expect to best anyone online, where the skill ceiling of those stalking the servers is frankly frightening. Yet the real achievement here is the ease at which the title caters to two disparate – and, sometimes, overlapping – audiences: the local multiplayer can be as casual as you want it to be, but you're going to need to get your sh*t together if you want to best the tougher AI opponents.
Perhaps the only meaningful criticism that can be levelled at the game comes down to a contractual conundrum: Puyo Puyo Tetris can only be purchased on Blu-ray for the PlayStation 4, bizarrely bucking Sony policy as it bows to The Tetris Company's licensing demands. Frankly, it's a game that demands the accessibility of a digital release, and it's disappointing that SEGA couldn't make that happen.
Nevertheless, with a slew of unlockables and a veritable smorgasbord of game modes – spanning the brilliantly simplistic Big Bang through to the frenzied Party – there's something for absolutely everyone here, but as mentioned the accessibility disguises a dizzying degree of depth, which is what will keep you hooked long after your friends and family have moved on.
It's hard to imagine the PS4 getting a better puzzle game than Puyo Puyo Tetris. SEGA's brilliant blend of brick building and blob busting makes for a frantically fun multiplayer experience, but it's got enough depth beyond its surface simplicity to keep you occupied for a long, long time.