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Puzzle Columns: Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine

21326_frontIn today’s installment of Puzzle Columns, we’ll be looking at the phenomenal Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine for the SEGA Genesis (also known as Dr. Robotnik and His Mean Bean Machine in PAL regions).

DRMBM is a puzzle game released in 1993, based around everyone’s favorite ovoid antagonist, Dr. Ivo Robotnik, specifically the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog animated series interpretation thereof, featuring several characters from the show, as well as sporting a similar art style.

The story, simple though it may be, is as follows; the eternally curmudgeonly Dr. Robotnik sets out to make sure no one has any more fun, by way of his newest invention: the Mean Bean-Steaming Machine! He kidnaps the residents and puts them into his machine to roboticize them into mechanized slaves. It’s up to us to stop him!

This gem was published by SEGA, and produced by Compile, makers of the famed Puyo Puyo series.

How does it play? It’s Puyo Puyo! The first Western release of Puyo Puyo, and also one of the very few games in the Sonic series to not feature Sonic. Like at all. Weird, right?

Mean_Bean_titleGameplay follows the conventions of classic Puyo Puyo. Beans (or Puyo) fall into the board in pairs. You rotate the pairs clockwise or counter-clockwise, and attempt to connect four beans in a row. If you do this, the beans disappear. If you can chain two groups together by planning out where the beans will fall, and lining them up accordingly, you can send garbage (or “refugee”) beans to your opponent’s board, which can only be cleared by clearing adjacent beans.

If you can fill up the opponent’s board so that no more beans can come in, you win! This is no small task, though, as your opponent will be doing the same to you. This is a fairly challenging game, and the difficulty curve is pretty steep. It becomes infuriatingly difficult within the first few levels if you’re still learning how to chain combos together and deal with garbage beans.

DRMBM_ScreenshotThankfully, outside of the scenario mode, there is also an Exercise Mode where you can practice playing the game at various speeds without having to worry about an opponent. There is also of course a two-player versus mode where you can face off with a friend.

The visuals are very bright and colorful, with the great depth of color that the Genesis was known for. The music is good as well, but the fairly short loops means that it can grate after a bit. The title theme is especially great, with my personal favorites being the title theme, Stage 9-12, and Stage 13.

DrRobotniksMeanBeanMachine-GG-US-FrontThe Game Gear version, while staying almost identical in terms of gameplay, does have a Puzzle Mode, where you have to follow the instructions with the beans you are given (ie clear all red beans, clear 10 beans at once, etc.). Incidentally, the Game Gear version was my first exposure to the Puyo Puyo series, and I still have a great soft spot for this version.

There are a fairly good amount of options to be fiddled with, including CPU difficulty, number of rounds for versus play, turning voice samples on and off, and make sure all the buttons work on your controllers.

Does DRMBM hold up to the ravages of time? Yes, it does, and very well! It’s still great fun, and I guarantee virtually everyone who reads this has a console that it was ported to. It was released on Genesis, Game Gear, Master System, Steam, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo 3DS, Sonic Mega Collection and Sonic Mega Collection Plus for PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Nintendo Gamecube, and in Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

It’s fairly inexpensive everywhere, so pick up a copy and have a blast!

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