Great Old Gaming Gems – Columns

SEGA’s answer to Tetris, Columns was popular in a way that the spin offs of the Nintendo original never were and although games have taken elements of both games in spin offs or rip offs since, none has really managed to capture the fun in either or both of the games.

Tetris was fun and addictive to play with its rapid but simple method of creating line upon line. Columns was not about removing lines from the screen, but about linking up similar types of gems either horizontally, vertically or diagonally. What this meant for the game is that you would often find the screen rapidly filling up with different coloured gems but with one well placed block you could start a chain reaction which rapidly clears the screen as you get a diagonal which allows you to get a vertical, which allows you to get a horizontal, which allows you to get a diagonal etc…

Columns was a fun game because it wasn’t about waiting for the 4-block line to drop down so you could get a Tetris, but were about chaining as many combos as you could and in a puzzle game it added a frantic level of strategy that you would not normally find. I have to admit, when it comes to Columns I’m incredible at playing it but not for the reasons anyone might think. I kind of zone out when playing the game and let my subconscious place my blocks without thinking about it. I’ll find I’ve got a rapidly filling screen when all of a sudden, I’ll drop a block and not even realise it but its started a reaction that eliminates 70% of the blocks on the screen.

This game was also pretty special because it enabled people to play 2-player on a puzzle game on the same console. In fact it was kind of a key part of the gameplay and kind of expected. Yes you could play Tetris 2-player as long as you had a cable but it was really its own game just for solo play and the competitive mode was somewhat lacking. Columns though had the expectation kind of built in and the fast and frantic combo play really lent itself to multiplayer gaming.

Columns is a great and enjoyable game and I think it’s valid competition for Tetris but what makes it a great old gaming gem is that it doesn’t have to compete. They are ultimately puzzle games, but very different and very unique. Both are good, just in different ways.