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Reviewed by Michael LoCascio It's amazing that in an industry where companies are constantly trying to outdo one another with technological effects and innovations, great success was achieved simply by introducing the concept of falling blocks. After Tetris became a monster hit, it seemed as if a moratorium were called on flashy graphics and complex controls, as plenty of game companies jumped on the "falling block" bandwagon. Now, I enjoy Tetris as much as the next guy, but the many clones that came out never really appealed to me. The lack of originality coupled with the fact that these clones simply weren't as addictive or as enjoyable as the original Tetris turned me off to the entire genre. I was never much of a falling block kind of guy anyway; as much fun as Tetris was, I could only play it for so long before I'd go back to Blazing Lazers. Columns was one of the very few Tetris rip-offs that I did enjoy playing. Perhaps it was because this was the one game that came somewhat close to duplicating the simple charm and long-term appeal of Tetris. Whatever the reason, Columns is one title that I can still come back to and power up for a couple of hours on my venerable Genesis. The goal in Columns is a pleasantly simple one. Vertical blocks of three segments (or "jewels") apiece drop down to the bottom of the screen. It's your job to arrange these blocks so that three or more jewels of the same color are grouped together horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. Once these groupings are formed, the jewels in question will disappear, and any jewels that had been resting above them will fall down and occupy the vacant space. Play your cards right and "chain reactions" are possible, in which jewels fall down into previously occupied spots and form new groupings of their own. The controls in Columns are incredibly easy to master, although many gamers were annoyed by the fact that the blocks couldn't be rotated and made to fit into place horizontally. Instead, pressing a button caused the three jewels within a falling block to rearrange themselves. I liked this method of control, myself; if nothing else, it distanced the game even further from Tetris. All of the options that you would expect from a "falling block" title are present in Columns, including adjustable difficulty and choice of background music. Speaking of music, the melancholy tunes that play during a game of Columns are superb. This is the kind of game that you could stay up late at night playing for hours on end, so decent music is a vital element. Don't be surprised, however, if you can't get the music out of your head the next day. Another appealing aspect of Columns is the two-player mode. After so much criticism was leveled at Nintendo for releasing a one-player version of Tetris, Sega made sure that Columns came through in this area. It's not quite as enjoyable as the two-player mode in Tengen's Tetris, but there is still plenty of fun to be had from competing with a friend in Columns. While it was really just an attempt on Sega's part to capitalize on Tetris' success (and ensure that Nintendo didn't dominate the genre), Columns is a worthwhile game. The two-player mode and the excellent music set this cart above most of the generic Tetris clones that were released during the early '90s. And remember, this is coming from someone who isn't a "falling block kind of guy". Overall: 7 / 10

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