When I was growing up you were either a Nintendo kid or a Sega kid. I started off as a Sega kid and has both the Master System and the Game Gear, but eventually transitioned to Nintendo with my first NES, which then continued to every single Nintendo platform thru to this day. One of the biggest hits for Nintnedo’s first portable was Tetris. Though I had a Game Gear and the game was available I never got around to playing the game.
Columns II: A Voyage Through Time has arrived on the Nintendo Switch in the form of a Sega Ages release. The package includes an online versus mode, a Stage Select feature, and a tabletop mode that rotates Player 2’s screen 180 degrees for face-to-face battles. The release also includes the original Genesis version of Columns comes bundled in.
In the game you match jewels, fossils, and disks. The game is similar to the other falling puzzle games where you control falling pieces as you position them at the bottom of the stage. The goal in Columns is to aim for a three-in-a-row match to clear the gems. You can match them horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. You need to to clear the screen before they stack to the top.
I’m going to compare this game a lot to Tetris as it’s the closest in gameplay that I’ve played.
One of the most frustrating features of Columns is that you can’t rotate the blocks that fall. A stack of three gems fall vertically from the top of the screen. While you can cycle through these gems to switch up which colour is on top, in the middle, or on the bottom of the stack, you’re really at the mercy of the randomized gems. If you don’t have a good place to put them
In Tetris you have room to stack up to 20 lines high, which has always felt like more than enough. However in Colums you only have 13 rows to work with. When you add in to every tile that falls is three high, you run of out space quickly. One mistake can really throw you under the bus as recovering from a blunder is next to impossible many times. The opposite is true of Tetris as you can make amazing recoveries in Tetris even when the blocks are starting to fall quickly.
That’s another issue I have with Columns. With how unforgiving mistakes are the speed at which the blocks start to fall quickly is way too soon, especially given how little space you have to work with.
There were a total of three Columns titles all released during the Genesis era, which they must have had some success back then. I hope that if SEGA was looking to develop a new version of Columns that they ease the speed ramp up and provide a bigger playing field. As it stands Columns II is okay in short bursts, but isn’t a whole lot of fun.
Playing Columns II made me want to go play Tetris 99 instead.