Building Spatial Skills Through Puyo Puyo Games

Building Spatial Skills Through Puyo Puyo Games

Puyo Puyo games are simple puzzle games that require the player to rotate falling pairs of objects to build combos of four or more of the same color.  If the objects aren’t matched, they stack up and if they reach the top, the game is over.  As the levels progress, players must rotate the pairs more quickly in order to survive, as the speed at which the pairs drop increases.

Examples of combos in Puyo Puyo games

One commercially successful example of a Puyo Puyo game that I played as a child is Sega’s Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine.  The final level is depicted below, so you can get an idea of the gameplay.

The final level from Sega’s Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine

Needless to say, earlier levels “train” the player’s reflexes to be able to respond to and rotate the pairs fast enough to succeed in later levels.  In the end, the player must respond almost instinctively in order to win.

One of the skills that are essential to success in STEM fields are visual-spatial skills.  Sheryl Sorby’s research on building spatial skills suggest that most people believe they initially have poor spatial skills, but that they can be brought up to speed and trained fairly quickly via a training course (Sorby 2009).

I wonder if there is any correlation between people who played and succeeded at games like Puyo Puyo, which require extremely dextrous spatial reflexes at later levels, and their spatial reasoning skills later in life.  If so, is it possible that these games could be modded to include a third plane of rotation (i.e. forward/backward) in addition to the traditional 2D rotation required to succeed?  How would this impact players’ spatial reasoning?  Could they also incorporate examples from spatial reasoning tests in order to familiarize players with these exercises and build their confidence within a game, instead of a course?

I can’t say for certain that these correlations exist, but it’d make for an interesting approach to our NSF project.



Sorby, S. (2009). Developing spatial cognitive skills among middle school students. Cognitive Processing, 10(Suppl2), S312-S315.


  • Felix Pleșoianu
    Posted at 23:44h, 26 October

    Check out the classic game Blockout: — quite literally a Tetris in 3D. It was *hard*.

  • Benji York
    Posted at 10:13h, 27 October

    “Current video game players made 32 percent fewer errors, were 24 percent faster and scored 26 percent better overall than their non-player colleagues.”

  • sookiemonster
    Posted at 14:08h, 27 October

    I’ve played Blockout and it is wicked hard. There are a number of puyo puyo type 3d games on Steam (listed as “match-3” games). Ones that come to mind are:

    * Edge
    * Rush
    * Critical Mass

    An older game that also comes to mind is Devil Dice, where you have telly-tubby-looking doodes running around on top of dice, particularly the 2-player co-op mode; I recall my brothers playing that for hours.

  • mary
    Posted at 14:56h, 28 October

    check out these articles: Chee Siang Ang’s “Rules, gameplay, and narratives in video games”
    and Eric Yim, William Joseph Gaudet and Sid Fels, “The Video Cube Puzzle: On Investigating Temporal Coordination”