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Columns

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Reviewed by Inkhands Columns is a nice puzzle game. It is simply a variation on the falling blocks theme of Tetris, but it's still an interesting reworking of the Tetris formula. To me, it wasn't quite as addictive as Tetris. Also, I did play Tetris before this game, so it doesn't seem as original. It just seems more like the clone that it is. This one follows the Tetris setup well and then adds a few differences, that make it interesting, but not interesting enough. In this version of the game you have two modes of play. First off you can play a one player game or a two player versus mode. If you choose one player mode you will then select if you want to play on normal mode or a flash mode. Normal mode gives you an empty box to start with. Flash mode starts with a certain amount of the box already filled in. You select the difficulty between easy, normal, and hard. You can also select the level of play between 2 and 9. This variates the height the shapes are in the box and the speed in which they fall. You also get three options on what type of music to listen to as you play. One option allows you to choose the type of blocks. The choices are the jewels, squares, dice, fruit, and the shapes that appear on a deck of cards, such as spades and hearts. The squares look like legos. The fruit varies from apples and bananas. The jewels are red and purples circles. There are also purple and yellow squares. In actually playing the game, you are given a box container and it sits in the middle of the screen. Blocks of three shapes are falling from the top. You have to arrange them to match by color. They never bend or flip. They stay the same shape no matter how many buttons you hit. However, you can arrange the order in which you want them to sit. If you have a blue on top, red in the middle, and yellow on the bottom set of shapes, you can change them by hitting the button. This will put blue on the bottom, yellow in the middle, and red on top. The colors match up vertically. You can sit two of the same color on another of the same color and they will flash and disappear. They also match up horizontally. Line up three blocks of the same color in a row and they will also disappear. Another way they will clear is if you line them up diagonally. It takes at least three of the same color to clear, but it can be more than that if they do match. Another good thing is this game allows chain reactions. If you match a row vertically, then other ones will drop, and they will also clear if you have three more of the same color in line with each other vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. The chain reaction will continue for as long as possible. I had five rows to clear in one chain reaction. Occasionally, a set of flashing blocks will fall. The first diamond it hits will be the key color. All the other blocks of that color will diappear from the container, whether they touched the flashing one or not. So if you hit it against a red block, all the red ones will disappear. The control is fine in this game. All you do is move them left or right to sit them where you want. You also hit one of the buttons to change the order of the blocks. The challenge in this game depends on the setting, but is still rather low in either mode. The game is very slow paced. Too slow paced in my opinion. It doesn't have the intensity that Tetris has. The blocks never really vary in speed from level to level. Early on they fall very slow, but then suddenly you hit level 9 or so and they begin falling so fast that's it's almost impossible to arrange them. You do get a preview of the next set of blocks that will fall, but you might not have time to look. This game moves from easy to impossible with nothing in between. You have a title song and then you have a choice of three songs to listen to while playing. One of the songs uses something that sounds like a harp. The other sounds dreamy like one of the songs in Tetris. The other is a slight variation on the Russian sounding song from Tetris. If you have played Tetris and heard either of the songs in that game, then just imagine a variation on them. If you haven't played Tetris, then imagine something that sounds Russian, something dreamy, and something like a lullaby. The music speeds up as the blocks pile up, just as it does in Tetris. No sound effects other than the blocks landing and the click click sounds they make as you flip through them changing their order. Average sound in this game. Graphically, this game is rather weak. I suppose it is because of the limitations of the system. The container is very tall and narrow. To the right of the container is a set of boxes. One box is a preview as to the next set of blocks that is falling. You also have a box telling you the level you are on. The next box shows your total score. Finally, you have a box that informs you of how many blocks you have cleared. The background looks like some Asian city. As you progress in the levels, the background begins to change as though day is changing into night. It becomes darker and then you see the Moon in the sky. The actual blocks aren't really colorful. They are simple looking as well. None of them are very detailed. They are a little too small though and don't stand out as well as they should. They show up well enough to play, but it would have been much better if they were larger. There is a little bit of a delay once your blocks land. It is as though the game is trying to detect if you matched up any blocks or not. The delay is very obvious, but only hinders the game a little. However, I would have prefered no delay at all. This game really doesn't have anything above average in terms of graphics. Replay value depends on how addicted you get to the game. There are really only two modes of play, unless you play versus mode. The first mode just plays as an endless stream of blocks falling until the container fills up. The flash mode, basically, lets you adjust the height of the blocks that have already fallen. You might want to play it again for that mode just to see how far you can advance. You also might want to play the other one to see how many total blocks you can clear or try to get a higher score. This is basically a point based puzzle game that recquires a little thought and strategy, while still demanding you use quick reflexes to arrange the blocks. Much in the same way the original Tetris did. The game moves too slow for too long and the pace never really picks up. Once it does, it picks up to the impossible level. If you are looking for a good puzzle game to take on a trip, then quite obviously you would be better off with the GameBoy version of Tetris. Columns is good, but more of an inferior clone than an actual game. It appears on a lot of systems, but this version of the game is certainly not the best one available. It's a little hard not to compare this game to Tetris, because that game set the standard that most puzzle games follow now. Columns follows it well, while adding some nice variations, but still comes out to be not as good as the definitive puzzle game. Graphics - 5/10 Sound - 5/10 Control - 7/10 Challenge - 6/10 Appeal - 7/10 Game Play - 6/10 Replay Value - 5/10 Overall - 6/10

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