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
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