A lot of focus this week has been on Tetris, and rightfully so. It is one of the best, and most addictive puzzle games ever invented. But by no means is it the only choice for gamers. If you didn’t have an NES or SNES, you couldn’t even play Tetris, as it was only released on the Genesis in Japan and Europe. So what if you were like me, and had a Sega Genesis, and wanted to play puzzle games. Luckily for you, the Genesis had plenty of them. It’s true that none of them were Tetris, but with the other puzzlers on the Genesis, you weren’t missing anything. Here are four of the best.
The biggest puzzle game on the Genesis was Columns. It was a jewel-based game where 3 random gems in a vertical line fall to the bottom of the screen. You can change the order of the gems as much as you want by moving the bottom one to the top. The goal is to get 3 gems of the same type in a row vertically, diagonally, or horizontally, to make them disappear. Once they do, you can start a combo. If the gems were under other pieces, the pieces on top will fall and may lead to another match. This may happen multiple times in a row if you are lucky or good, resulting in a major combo worth an extreme amount of points. As with Tetris, you can see what the next column will look like, and the longer you survive, the faster the columns will fall. When it was first ported from arcades, it was primarily a multiplayer game, but with the release of Columns III: Revenge of Columns, the single player value was boosted as well. You would play against computer-controlled enemies, and use your skill and new power-ups to defeat them. Unfortunately this new mode actually made the game worse as you could no longer simply play by yourself. On the plus side Columns 3 had support for up to 5 players. Both titles are on the VC for 800 Nintendo points each, which is a bargain for the amount of time that you will sink into them. Columns will forever have a special spot in the hearts of Genesis fans.
Another great puzzle game for Genesis owners was Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine. The game itself is actually a clone of another puzzle game called Puyo Pop, which hadn’t seen an American release at the time. Taking a popular puzzle franchise and mixing it with the biggest series on the Genesis was a sure way to make an instant hit. In MBM beans fall in columns of two from the top of the screen. You can rotate the beans by moving the bean from the top around the bean on the bottom. Once beans of the same color are touching, they will stick together. The goal is to have at least 4 of the same type of bean touching vertically or horizontally to make them disappear. As with the single player mode in Columns III, you cannot play by yourself. Instead you are constantly fighting one of Dr. Robotnik’s many creations, until the final level where you take on Robotnik himself. Since the game is based on multiplayer, clearing beans on your screen will affect the other player. After a successful clear, refugee beans will appear on the opponent’s screen. They can only disappear when the beans they are touching become part of a combo. As with Columns there is a ton of potential for huge combos after an initial clear, which will make more refugee beans fall on your opponent’s screen. MBM is available on the VC for 800 Nintendo points. Try it out and see what got so many Sonic fans hooked on the puzzle genre.
If you were a fan of puzzle games but wanted a different type of puzzle, then Lemmings could have been the game for you. Lemmings was originally an extremely popular puzzle game for pc’s in the early 1990’s. The game is built upon a series of levels, in which you need to guide a percentage of lemmings to the exit. However, the levels are full of dangerous traps which can take the lives of many lemmings. To deal with this, you can assign different skills to lemmings to help them reach the finish line. Skills such as climbing and floating can be put to the test to help you complete your goal. Lemmings is a game where you need to have a strategy to win. If you assign your lemmings the wrong skills in the wrong order, it’s game over for you.
Moving back towards more traditional puzzle games, Klax was another great choice for Sega fans. In Klax you have to get a certain amount of matches (called Klax) to complete each level. This number is revealed before each level so you always know what to shoot for. Different colored Klax will randomly fall down one of five vertical columns. At the bottom of the columns is a catching device that can hold one Klax piece, which you can move to any of your columns. If you aren’t fast enough to grab a Klax block, it will come to rest at the bottom of the column that it fell from. Obviously Klax pieces fall faster as you get to higher levels, and the game even gives you the option on every fifth stage to skip levels for bonus points. Klax made a perfect addition to the library of any Sega puzzle fan.
As you can see, life without Tetris on Genesis really wasn’t all that bad, as there were many other addicting puzzle games to choose from. I only named four of them, but these four titles are enough to satisfy the appetite of any puzzle fan. If you haven’t played some of the titles mentioned above, give them a shot. You will find that there is more to the puzzle life than simply Tetris.