Review: Columns (Sega Genesis)

In this review, we get our hands on some shiny things in the Sega Genesis game Columns. We find out how well this puzzle game plays.

This game was released in 1990. This is our first time reviewing this kind of game as well.

This is one of those puzzle games that involve falling pieces into a playing field. It also involves tile matching in a somewhat similar fashion to that of Puzzle League games like Tetris Attack. Of course, there are a number of differences between these games that makes this game its own game.

Each piece is a vertical line of three jewels. You can rotate the pieces by simply rotating the jewels within. The goal is to get three of the same color jewels on the field to line up. You can line them up either vertically, horizontally, or diagonally.

when you clear a line of jewels, whatever is left will fall and fill the empty spaces directly below. If the remaining jewels happen to line up nicely and complete another row, they will also clear out. This is great because you can cause a cascading effect from time to time if your stack starts getting too high.

As you clear jewels, you’ll be able to advance to new levels. The more levels you clear, the faster the jewels will fall. This adds to the challenge as you’ll gradually find yourself being forced to make quicker decisions along the way.

The game does have some give. If your piece lands, you do have a split second to keep rotating the piece until it locks in place. You can also move the piece around a little bit after it lands. While this can help make the game easier, it won’t always save you – especially if you over-rotate the piece from time to time.

The controls are such that you can move the pieces around quickly. This allows you to move the pieces to one side or another quite high up in spite of the highest speed being near instant. It’s not perfect and it’s possible to have pieces not quite make it, but you do have a lot of forgiveness here.

If your pieces block the entry point, then you’ll stack and it’ll be game over.

On a rare occasion, you’ll get a three flashing jewel piece. When the piece drops, it will remove every jewel that has the same color as the one it touches. This can be great for reducing your stack. It’s extremely rare, though, so counting on it making an appearance is ill-advised.

There are a few different modes. One mode is the arcade mode. This is just regular Columns at a certain difficulty. Complete as many lines as possible before it is game over.

The remaining modes, weirdly enough, can be found in the “menu” option.

If you don’t have a second person to play with you, then you basically have only two additional modes: Single player and Flash.

In both modes, you can set various difficulty settings. The difficulty determines how many different jewels you’ll get in the game. Easy has the least number of jewels. Amateur adds the red jewels. Pro further adds the purple jewels.

The level you start off with determines how fast your pieces will fall from the beginning.

You can even give yourself a timed match.

A second single player mode you can play is “Flash”. In this mode, one particular jewel is flashing. Clear the flashing jewel and win the match. You’ll be timed in this mode, so the faster you clear out this jewel, the better.

This is certainly one of the better puzzle games I’ve played on the Genesis. I certainly had no problem playing this one for longer periods of time.

It’s certainly possible to have repetitive play. The thing is, you have to set the difficulty setting on easy and have a fair amount of puzzle gaming expertise. After a while, the speed of the pieces will reach a limit. After that, you can pretty much play as long as you like and continually rack up points. This is the case for me playing the game on the easy setting. After a while, I just threw the game and tried it on a harder setting. The more difficult settings will add a nice degree of challenge as you’ll encounter fewer pieces with two of the same jewel in it.

One criticism I do have with this game is that you can’t quit certain modes. Some of the modes allow you to leave after stacking. Others just continually repeats until you reset it. It would have been great to have a menu when you pause the game.

Generally speaking, this game has a number of interesting features. You can set the game to whatever your skill level is at. It is both approachable to new players and challenging to people who have experience with these types of games. While there are moments that can be repetitive if you have a certain degree of skill, that can be solved by trying harder difficulty settings. The overall lack of a pause menu is probably the biggest fault in the game, though. An overall decent game.

The graphics are alright. The game features some nice effects when you stack. The backgrounds are decently drawn, though it would have been nice to have more backgrounds than just one for each mode. The menu’s are not bad as well. The pieces are also decently drawn. A pretty decent job here.

The audio is OK. There are three tracks you can choose from before the game starts, so you can get some variety. Still, it can get a little bland after a while. The sound effects are alright though.

Overall, this is a pretty good game. It’s certainly one of the better Genesis puzzle games I’ve played so far. There is a nice variety thanks to the different settings you can adjust. The lack of a pause menu is certainly the games biggest fault. Games can get repetitive after a while, but that can be more of a sign that the settings are too easy more than anything else. The graphics are pretty decent, though more variety would have certainly improved things. The audio is OK, but nothing huge. An overall alright game.

Furthest point in game:

Arcade (default settings):
Level 9
342 Jewels

Easy (threw the game):
Level 46
2342 Jewels

Level 22
1147 Jewels

Level 4
215 Jewels

General gameplay: 18/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 70%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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