STOP! I already know what you are thinking before reading this. "Oh great, here's another crappy port, and worse yet, it's a puzzler for a handheld." As if handhelds didn't have enough puzzle games, right? Well, chances are, if you have played the Genesis version of Columns, true, this game won't blow you away or have you wasting away the night. However, if you just now realized that there is indeed an alternative, and some say, better, alternative to Tetris. While I may be a bit biased to Columns for being a Sega junkie, I might somewhat agree, and for one reason, it's fast! Time to fill in the unfortunate who have never played Columns!
Columns was purchased/designed for one sole purpose, defeat/steal thunder from Nintendo to gain a slight upper hand on the next-gen consoles. After the original was a success, Sega needed a cash flow for their dying Game Gear that couldn't keep up with Tetris and its Gameboy. Sega made the obvious decision to port their famous puzzler and pit the two together. But thanks to an incredibly low demand for Game Gear and already low percentage of owners, the whole thing was a flop. But thanks to wonderful technology, we can relive those glory days and play the great games we missed, and believe me this game was a great game to have missed. You see, Columns isn't just a Tetris knock-off, it's a game targeted at taking Tetris out, level by level. It had everything Tetris had, simply redesigned. Amazing graphics, check. Simplistic but difficult to master gameplay, check. Fun, challenging gameplay, check. Great sound and music, check. Then it went one further, thanks to Game Gear it has color and more modes. Where Nintendo was geared toward a Russian theme, Sega alternatively used a Greco-Roman theme, and the war began.
Choose from three methods of play, Never Ending, Story, or Flash. In Never-ending, select your difficulty, level, music, and columns theme. In Flash, the flashing jewels must be removed. In the other two forms, you must keep your columns low enough, so they do not overflow off the screen, or you lose. As the game continues, the speed will increase and needed jewels become even more scarce. Keep up with the speed and increasing difficulty, rack up the best score for the longest time, or defeat the enemy in story mode!
Graphics-wise, this game makes a nice port. I was surprised by the vivid palette that this game presented and by how detailed the jewels were. They essentially looked like smaller versions of those found on the Genesis version. The addition of blocks is very welcoming; because of the smaller screen, the jewels would sometimes be difficult to distinguish and the blocks solve that problem. The theme is still very felt in this game, much to the delight of many of its players. The sound is still wonderful on this limiting technology, hearing each jewel land and shatter is great, and the music is superb for a portable game. Six different tracks will keep you from hearing the same thing over and over again!
This game is a must play for any puzzle fan out there, and does an outstanding piece of work to face up against a giant. Unfortunately it does have a few woes, that's why... Super Columns clears up a score of 7.5 out of 10!
In a new form of Tetris, this puzzler's objective is to clear jewels by placing them three or more in a group, which can be a row, column or diagonal.
Each mode in Super Columns (yes I understand the irony of it being called Super) is a bit different and as fun as the other. Which is a shame, because I though for sure that story mode would have been more fun. In Never ending you get some simple options to start out from, including a suspiciously familiar block theme, as well as a wide range of music. You then play through the game as you normally would, simply trying not to lose. As you progress, so does the difficulty.
Story mode has you play through a roughly etched storyline, basically enough to let you face off against an AI opponent. All of your opponents here are easy, or at least for a typical puzzler. In fact I felt they all were too easy, and I rarely play puzzlers like I used to. This was a shame, because they could have made this much more challenging so that more hardcore puzzle gamers would have been thrown into a whirl with such an easy game to play. The story mode probably will take someone an hour or so, but at least it encourages you to get better and stay better.
Flash Columns is like Never ending, but with unique levels where your mission is to clear the jewel(s) that is(are) flashing. This was the most fun for me, as it did provide a challenge that was unlike the other two modes and provided hours of entertainment as you develop strategies on how to get to the flashing jewels and keep from over stacking and losing the game. As the levels increase you have to manage the ever daunting task of clearing levels and levels of jewels to reach one, sometimes ruining it all with one misplaced column. It keeps you coming back for more.
The gameplay, for being a port to such a small screen, retains all the same fluidity. However, the fluidity can be its flaw. As you hold the button to move the piece a bit faster, you'll find yourself constantly hitting the edges, or if you hold down to advance a piece, the next piece will fall too fast if you don't let go on time. This is a minor annoyance, but it does bug you if you're on one of the final levels on Story or Flash. The story mode is a welcome addition (probably from Columns 3) as is a new jewel, when three of this new fire jewel meet, a flame clears a line of jewels depending on how the three were arranged. With only two buttons, you now only have one button to switch with. If you're used to the Genesis version, this is annoying, because now you must ALWAYS quickly cycle, making your gaming a bit more precise and a bit more frustrating. Each mode, thankfully, felt unique. I just wished there was a better level indicator on Never-ending.
|A Button||Start Piece Over|
|B Button||Switch Piece|
|Start a new game in flash mode, a height of nine, and the level of difficulty set to normal. Quit the game after the demonstration mode to see a different ending sequence.|