When I got a Gameboy, it didn’t come with any games (Thanks a bunch, Nintendo. I love that you’ve kept doing that for the past 2 decades.). This meant that I had to choose which game I wanted. In reality the main reason I wanted a Gameboy was that I wanted to play the Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. Needless to say, I kind of jumped on the Gameboy boat a little late being that the Gameboy came out in ’89 and Link’s Awakening came out in ‘94.
The point of me telling you this is that I never really played Tetris on the Gameboy like most people my age. Yes, I know! How could I have missed out on the video game equivalent of the fall of the Berlin Wall (I like to keep my references current)? In fact the first puzzle game that I played religiously was on the antithesis of the Gameboy: the Sega Game Gear.
My brother had somehow obtained a Game Gear and a small handful of games. Probably through necromancy and dumpster diving. Honestly, I probably played it more than he did. I remember playing Tail’s Adventure and Batman at night thanks to the absence of a need for lighting and a surplus of time to waste. However, the game that I played ad nauseam was Columns.
As I was saying before, I was never a child of the Tetris age. My first foray into the puzzle videogame universe was Columns and let me tell you, I played the hell out of that game. This was the first game where I played in a dark room until I realized that dawn was breaking.
I was obsessed.
If you have ever played Bejeweled or Dr. Mario you’ll probably be able to figure out Columns pretty quickly. Essentially, a line of 3 blocks fall from the top of the screen and you can change the alignment in an attempt to make lines of the same types of block. Just like Tetris or any other puzzle game where blocks fall from the ether, you play till you lose.
There is also a mode where you can play against the computer. In a nutshell, the better you do the less space the opponent has to work with. Each time you beat the computer the difficulty raises. There are ten levels in all, like bowling pins or lords a leaping or Things I Hate About You.
This is what started it all for me. Columns was the game that made me fall in love with the puzzle game genre. It wasn’t the infamous Tetris or her counterpart, Nintendo themed Dr. Robotnitc’s Mean Bean Machine, Dr. Mario. Columns is a game that was horribly overlooked because it simply wasn’t Tetris and that always kind of made me sad.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Tetris but I feel like Columns was a highly underrated game at it’s time. It always sat in the shadow of the Behemoth and never got the reception it deserved. *
If you’re interested there is an iPhone app that includes both Columns and Puyo Pop. However, in the zeitgeist of Columns history, there is little care in the translation of the game. The controls are rigid, the graphics are dated, and the music is a facsimile of the Gamegear chip set. The fact that Columns is packaged with Puyo Pop shows how little that the company that birthed its existence gives credence to this gem.