Aug 18 2009
Columns was Sega’s attempt at displacing Tetris as king of the puzzlers and it almost worked. Once again the falling blocks provided the pace of the game and the fact that the screen filled provided a time-limit. Instead of rotating shapes, though, in Columns you cycled the crystal colours and placed them next to similar colours. Three or more and they would disappear. So far, so Tetris. The difference was that when one set disappeared it would cause the other blocks above to fill the gaps. This could cause further reactions, so causing further reactions. Set a few up and combo your way to winning as all the reactions filled the screen.
When this was released on Megadrive, I played very little else for a while as they added a nice home version variant – Flash Columns. This game type stacked gems on top of a particular, flashing gem. ‘Dig’ down to the flashing gem and you’ve won the game. You could choose how many you wanted to have stacked above it and this way two-player handicaps could be set up. Flash changed the dynamic of the game from a Tetris clone to a different kind of puzzle game. You were not only trying to beat the falling gems, but beat the clock as well as high scores were awarded for the quickest finish.
Columns and Puzzle Bobble are still my two favourite ‘straight’ puzzle games.