Wanna know the quickest way to get beaten up on the bus?


Puyo Puyo Tetris (2017)

As you lay there in bed at night, not really able to sleep, your thoughts begin to wander. Those idle dreams and ambitions you may have once had, and how they are no longer possible because you’re too old, too slow, and probably too ugly by now. Then you’ll remember some of the great nights out and social occasions you’ve lived, and how they all seemed to dry up at once and nobody was there to warn you about it. Having dented your mood for the night already, you seek just a bit more of that blissful drug called angst.

And, like a low valley drifter wandering his way through a sleepy town before finally, inevitably, hopelessly trudging to the doss house, your mind will eventually settle on reliving the most awfully embarrassing moments to have ever struck your life. Suddenly, you can forget about any sleep. Your teeth begin to itch. Your eyebrows move involuntarily. Your body groans and aches all over and your cheeks begin to redden. What kind of a social disaster are you?!

Well, who’s asking that question anyway? Nobody, thank God, or you’d never be able to live your previous embarrassments down. We are self-conscious creatures, aren’t we? Our day is ruined if we slightly trip when going up some stairs, we consider taking the next day off work if we respond to ”Enjoy the film!” with “You too!”,  and we book our funerals in for the following Thursday if we wave back at somebody only to realise that they were looking at somebody far more socially desirable behind us.

What we don’t seem to get, until far too late in life, is that nobody really cares what you’re doing as much as you do, or as much as you think they do. And unless you’re an outright freak – and I’m thinking walking down the street wearing a kaftan and pretending to be a blind reincarnation of Jesus here – you really have no need to be so self-conscious.

Now, given that this is the social media age of shameless self-promotion, this apparently positive news that nobody is altogether interested in your thoughts and feelings may well be a double-edged sword for you. What, how can they not love your vlogs and not-at-all-by-the-numbers Instagram travel posts? But if you’re not too wrapped up in yourself, you now have carte blanche to be an out-and-out goofball in public with nobody caring much at all. And this licence to be open confers a certain type of confidence.

I would need this confidence as I embarked on the 1-Player Adventure mode of Puyo Puyo Tetris on my public bus journeys. I find myself on the bus often these days, through choice if you can believe that, and I need some sort of distraction to put the bottom feeders at bay in case they should try to interact with me.

Obviously having your phone out is socially acceptable, and God do a lot of people on buses have their heads buried in their phones for the duration. But then this isn’t a new thing, is it? But the point is, a phone is fine. It’s accepted, and it’s not out of the ordinary, which is a big thing in Dublin.

But the Nintendo Switch is pretty conspicuous. It can only draw looks. Some of these looks may be allayed if I spend the journey playing FIFA 18 instead. That’s acceptable to the people who may very well take exception to your wanting to be different and decide to kick your head in. But do I want to play a rubber-head football game with the same delayed controls as FIFA 99, or do I want to embark on a “thrilling” nitwit adventure through the worlds of Puyo Puyo and Tetris?

As the low-effort title may suggest, Puyo Puyo Tetris is a colourful, goofy mashup between two of the most popular puzzle games in gamingdom. I won’t have to explain Tetris to you, but if you actually don’t know what it is, please get off this page immediately and clear your cache as well.

Puyo Puyo is a more interesting beast. You may have played it as Kirby’s Avalanche/Kirby’s Ghost Trap or Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine. Unfortunately, Gary Oak’s Yellow Jell-O Blobs was eventually cancelled.

It’s just a colour matching drop game, albeit with the ability to set up evil combos that leave your opponent deader than dead. Of course, any puzzle game not called Tetris is going to need a selling point. In the case of Puyo Puyo, as it is with so many other niche Nihongo games, it’s the presence of Japanese schoolgirls.

Of course I had no choice but to play the 1 player mode. The alternative was to either hand a Joy-Con to the dishevelled waster that had done me the terrible disservice of sitting beside me, or else go online via – get this – the bus Wi-Fi. Well, I suppose they have to justify the extravagant fares somehow. But even if I did brave it online, I’d find nobody on the servers but God-like Japanese players who no longer require the use of their hands or even their feet to play.

You can get beaten badly and emasculated a lot of times in games; like getting decapitated in Resident Evil 4, or seeing your once proud civilization razed to pieces in Age of Empires. On occasions like those, you’re just left in shock, trying to come to terms with the disrespect that’d just been inflicted on you. But the sheer gall of falling victim to a 12-chain in Puyo Puyo, which is good enough to kill you about 9 times over, is probably the worst of the lot.

Playing through a 1-Player Story Mode of two puzzle games, with 100 different scenarios, sounds even less appealing than single player Bomberman. Well fear not, for there is a fully voice-acted story mode in there, and it’s the most embarrassing part of the whole package. But don’t get me wrong – it’s still one of the best parts of the game, because it doesn’t take itself even slightly seriously and you can actually picture just how much fun the VAs must have had, although I’m sure they had plenty of uncomfortable questions as well.

Obviously, when you’re surrounded by the general public and the currently playing cutscene features multiple squeaky characters talking about how fluffy the scientist bear is, or introduces the swordsman who constantly and unwittingly makes sexual innuendos to one of the female main characters (a Japanese schoolgirl remember), you must please be aware that you are most at risk now.

Have your Switch’s headphones yanked out by a sudden speed-bump at this point and you’ll be playing My Little Pony-esque story scenarios for the entire bus to hear. You’d get better press if you stood up and suddenly announced yourself as Jimmy Savile’s greatest supporter, before throwing an evil eye at any children and their mothers present. No, the Switch version may offer portability over the PS4 and PC, but heaven knows if that’s even a good thing here.

So we are left with a game that’s embarrassing to be even seen with, distressing to play online, and absolutely excruciating when the Story Mode introduces yet more weird lolicons. It makes the whole package sound utterly painful.

But how can it be? It’s two of the greatest puzzle games of all time, it’s fully customisable, it’s got unlockables, a compelling and replayable story mode, online mode (forget it), and plenty of different types of games and rulesets that put new spins on the Tetris or Puyo formula; you can even play the two games at the same time, or swap between both at regular intervals.

At a budget price for your console of choice, it’s fantastic. And when you finally do T-Spins and high Puyo combos on purpose as opposed to an accident happier than man discovering fire, it’s a thrilling feeling. Just don’t let anybody see what you’re doing, keep the volume down, keep your head down while you’re at it, and be prepared for Google to offer you ads for vending machine panties for years to come.

08 August 2018

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