Review: Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine (Sega Genesis)

In this review, we clear the beans in the Sega Genesis game Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine. We find out how well this puzzle game plays.

This game was released in 1993. While this game features the main villain from the Sonic the Hedgehog series, the game is ultimately another Puyo Puyo game. We previously reviewed a SNES variation of the game called Kirby’s Avalanche, but that game garnered a pretty average score. So, we thought we’d try the Genesis variation to see if it is any better.

This game emphasizes two player battle matches. In the main campaign mode, players will square off against opponents of increasing skill. While the game does offer difficulty settings, there is little difference between easy and medium.

In the main campaign mode, you take on computer opponents of increasing difficulty. Because of the games difficulty, the game revolves more around trying to get as far into the game as possible more than planning on beating it.

For those who never played a Puyo Puyo game, it plays a bit like a Columns game. You have falling pieces which are basically a 1×2 block. Each block contains two pieces that can be either 1 or 2 colours. The goal is to match up the colours in chains of 4 or more. As long as 4 beans of the same colour all touch either above, below, left, or right, then they will clear. Diagonal does not count.

If you clear any amount of beans, you’ll be able to send garbage over to your opponents. The more beans you clear, the more garbage beans you send to your opponent. While this is all well and good, where you have the opportunity to really stick it to your opponents is through gravity combinations. If you clear any beans with unaffected beans above, those beans fall down in the space left behind. If those falling beans also happen to create a combination of 4 or more, then those beans will also clear off. This will send a large amount of garbage to your opponents. Naturally, the more successive clears you manage to get, the more garbage you send to your opponent in one shot.

Obviously, you are going to get garbage yourself. To clear the garbage, you need to clear beans touching the garbage. For every bean you clear, any garbage bean in any of the four directions will also clear.

The round ends when either you or your opponent stacks and blocks the entry point where pieces come onto the screen. Naturally, you want your opponent to do this to continue on with your adventure.

The longer rounds last, the greater the gravity strength, so beating opponents as soon as possible is a key objective if you can’t handle extremely quick falling pieces.

If you lose, you’ll be able to continue the game with a continue, but you will lose all the points you racked up up to that point.

Another mode is 2 player mode where you square off against a human player.

A third and final mode is practice mode. You can play a solo game or go up against another human opponent. You can select easy, medium, or hard mode. Regardless, you’ll be able to practice in this mode and try and rack up points as you go along. Curiously, the difficulty will increase over time, but this increasing difficulty only has scattered effects on gravity. As players get to the end of each level, gravity will increase. Upon completion of the level, the gravity will reset and gradually turn up. With each level, the gravity will become more extreme by the end. It won’t take long before gravity becomes pretty extreme.

A problem with this game is the extreme difficulty. Unless you are an expert in puzzle games or Puyo Puyo in particular, the chances of getting very far is quite slim. In fact, I personally never made it past level 3 and this is someone who has conquered all of the difficulties in Tetris Attack which has concepts not too dissimilar to this game.

Another problem is the fact that this game has a limited number of modes. Including multiplayer, this game has a mere 3 modes. What’s worse is that it doesn’t really take that long to get your fill of all of them. You could spend a portion of your evening playing this game and completely get your fill well before the evening is out. So, limited modes and even more limited time to get through each mode.

Ironically, it doesn’t take much to get the basic concept of the game. The problem is that even though the basic idea is approachable, the steep difficulty curve will ruthlessly mow down pretty much any new player, leaving only Puyo Puyo expert players to push to the end.

So, generally speaking, this game has a very easy concept to grasp at first. Unfortunately, the difficulty makes this game unwelcoming to new players. On top of that, the general difficulty of practice mode is somewhat scattered and strange. The extremely short length of this game also does this game few favours.

Graphically speaking, this game is OK for its time. It’s not amazing, but it’s not terrible. There is basic animation sequences and the effects of clearing beans are alright. The underground backgrounds are a bit repetitive, though as a lot of art is re-used.

The audio is, sadly, a similar story. The same music plays over and over again in each mode. There’s seemingly one track for each mode and that’s it. So if the repetitive play and backgrounds don’t turn you off, the music might. The sound effects are OK, but nothing special.

Overall, this game does little to sell players on the Puyo Puyo concept. While the basic concepts are easy to understand, the games difficulty will push a large portion of new players out of the game pretty early on. The length is quite short and the game itself is a bit on the repetitive side. The graphics are OK, but the audio isn’t the worlds greatest. An overall lacklustre game.

Furthest point in game:
Medium: Level 3: 11,420
Easy: Level 3: 12,750
Practice: Level 5: 17,620 (easy)

General gameplay: 15/25
Replay value: 5/10
Graphics: 6/10
Audio: 2/5

Overall rating: 56%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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