Portable Review

Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine


This game and I go waaaaaaaay back…At least its Genesis equivalent and I do. Tetris may have been the first puzzle game I ever played, but Dr. Robotnikís Mean Bean Machine was the first one I understood. Yep, at age 6, Tetrisís goal of making lines eluded me, but grouping four or more beans of the same color was easy as pie. One could say that Mean Bean Machine is the game that taught me to love puzzle games, well into the present.

The back storyís pretty simple: Dr. Robotnik is at it again, transforming living creatures into war machines to take over the world (known as Mobius to those of us in the West). This time, his plans have taken a different turn, as instead of utilizing animals like rabbits, penguins and the occasional pig, but this time, heís roboticizing the citizens of a little-known town called Beanville. Yes, and by putting these beans into his Mean Bean Machine, he plans to use these robotic slaves for conquest. Yeah, itís a pretty lame storyline, but one worth putting up with, considering the import behind this game.

You see, for those out of the know, this was the first of the Puyo Puyo games to hit American shores, so in order to facilitate the change, the entire backstory and graphical elements were changed, while the gameplay stayed the same (somewhat like Doki Doki Panicís transformation into the American Super Mario Bros. 2).

The basic mechanics of Mean Bean Machine is simple. Itís another ìstack-ëem-upî, where pairs of blocks (or in this case, beans) drop from the top of the screen and can be rotated until they hit the bottom of the area. In MBM, to destroy the beans, four (or more) of them must be lined up together (be it vertically, horizontally, or a mix of the two). There are also stone beans (generally called garbage blocks in other games) that appear on the opponentís field when the player destroys more than four beans in a single move or achieves a chain attack (and vice versa). There are also gigantic beans, which destroy every block in the two columns they land on.

There are four game modes in all. First, thereís Scenario Mode, which is basically the gameís story mode. In it, the player battles against Dr. Robotnikís robotic army, before taking on the big (and I do mean BIG) man himself. Next up is Gear-to-Gear Mode, which allows the player and a friend/foe/acquaintance/grandmother duke it out, link-cable style. Thereís also Exercise Mode, which acts as both an endless mode (it keeps on going…) and a practice mode (no opponents, no worries).

Finally, thereís Puzzle Mode, which is a departure from the other modes. In this mode, the player has to achieve a certain goal (such as destroying a certain number of beans in one move or destroying all of the beans of one color) on a pre-set playing field. Hereís an odd fact: Puzzle Mode is actually exclusive to the Game Gear. Generally the case with portable versions of games is that they lose features from the original console versions, not gain entirely original ones. Needless to say, Puzzle Mode adds to the gameís already classy fun factor. On the other hand, two-player mode has been slightly diminished (as it requires another Game Gear, another copy of the game and a link cable to achieve), so I guess it was a necessary addition.

While the gameplay does a great job of emulating the experience seen on the Genesis, the graphics do not. The characters are badly-drawn, the playing fieldsí backgrounds are a dull black, the beans have been severely simplified, and the playing field itself looks much less busy than in the Genesis version. The gameís sound, on the other hand, keeps the spirit of the console version, despite the expected downgrade. The song from the first few stages is the first puzzle song that ever got stuck in my head, and even on the Game Gear, it keeps its memorable melody. The other pieces of music in the game also have their own charm. The sound effects follow suit, having at least a minor semblance to their console equivalents.

Replay: the major selling point for any puzzle game. Fortunately, Mean Bean Machine lives up to the genreís standard, offering three different single-player experiences, as well as offering a two-player mode. However, as I said before, finding a human opponent to duel with is nigh-impossible. All the same, MBM is definitely one of the best puzzle games to grace the Game Gear, even if it isnít a Tetris killer.

-Originally Posted by Wolfdogg


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