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Columns

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Released: 1990

Genre: Puzzle

Format reviewed: Game Gear

Publisher: Sega

Developer: Sega

Submitted by: Matt

Any retro gamer worth their salt will know that Tetris was originally released on a range of primitive computers before Nintendo nabbed the rights and decided to bundle it with the GameBoy. However, it’s not quite so common knowledge that Columns was also originally for a machine other than the GameGear – the Atari ST. Jay Geertsen sold the rights to Sega, who thought it would be ideal to show off the GameGear’s colour screen.

I’m yet to meet a single person who thinks that Columns is better than Tetris. Obviously it looks a little better and the mellow music gets lodged in your brain instantly, but it’s nowhere near as addictive.

I think the reason for this is that Tetris requires planning ahead because the blocks are of different shapes; therefore it’s a whole lot more engaging. In Columns it’s just a simple case of matching three blocks (or more) of the same colour which requires minimum effort. Also, in Tetris when you make a mistake (ie – put a block in totally the wrong place) it’s usually fatal and can cost you dearly. You’ll curse, for sure, but you’ll also have to desire to put things right and will carry on playing just to see if you can fix your error. But here if you make a mistake it can usually be rectified quickly, therefore there’s no need to ever worry or panic. This can make Columns rather dull, particularly after several games in a row.

It’s not just batches of jewels that can be matched up in Columns – on the option screen there’s also the ability to change the blocks into pieces of fruit, dice and solid blocks. It is a little hard to make out the amount of dots on the dice though. There’s also a choice of three musical scores, a link-up mode and an extra game – Flash Columns. Here the screen is already full of blocks and has to be cleared down to a certain level.

Despite not being as addictive as Sega might have lead you to believe back in the 90s, it’s still an essential part of any GameGear collection. Give Super Columns wide berth though. It’s what Tetris 2 is to the original Tetris – a completely pointless sequel.

Columns

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Released: 1990

Genre: Puzzle

Format reviewed: Sega Genesis/Mega Drive

Publisher: Sega

Submitted by: Alex Holmes

Like many people, I got my first taste of this game on "mega games I" bundled with my Megadrive.  And to be fair, I initally dismissed Columns as a filler game, there to make up the numbers if you like.  Especially when you consider that my console also came bundled with Sonic.

But when i gave the game a go I couldnt believe how addictive the game was (and still is).  A fairly Tetris like playing area is presented at the start, with sets of three various coloured gems falling in a vertical line, and the object is to form lines of three or more of the same colour, either horizontally, vertically or diagonally.  When done so the gems dissapear and any blocks on top fall downwards.

After reaching certain milestones the level increases and the the game speeds up, meaning that fast reflexes are in order to keep the game alive.  The game has only one bonus item, and it comes in the form of three flashing gems, and when they touch down all gems that match the colour of the one directly underneath are destroyed, usually setiing off a high scoring combo.

The graphics are nice and colourful plus the soundtrack is quite nice on the ear, but due to the nature of the game theres only so much they could do graphics and sound wise, and as like most puzzle games, playability is where this title shines through.  Featuring a maddening but never annoying one player mode, and a fantastic split screen two player arcade style face off.  Plus the addition of the original columns mode and frantic timed trial syle flash columns, theres plenty to entertain with this gem. (had to get a pun in somewhere!)