Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine
Box Shot
Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine
Platform: Genesis
Publisher: Sega
Designer: Compile
Genre: Puzzle
Players: 2 (Simultaneous)
Published Date 1993
Reviewed by: 8-Bit Star

One of the most fun puzzle games I have ever played has to be Mean Bean Machine. It has everything from combos to a 2 Player mode to good music, and on the whole is a GREAT improvement over Tetris. This game is so good, Nintendo even tried converting their own version of Puyo Puyo (the Japanese game Mean Bean Machine is based on) and named it "Kirby's Avalanche" which, while a good game, wasn't as good as Mean Bean.

Dr. Robotnik is yet AGAIN turning people into robots, this time he is using the good folk of Beanville. He plans to rid Mobius of fun and music (Umm, what the hell is FatBoy's beef with fun and music? I thought he just wanted to rule Mobius!) using his robotic minions, but we all know Sonic is gonna come and save them, right? Actually, according to the box, Sonic is nowhere to be found (Huh? Guess he musta run so fast that he put himself out of phase with the rest of Mobius and disappeared) so it's up to another poor sap--YOU--to help free the beans.

The general concept is simple, join four beans of the same color together. It can be horizontally, vertically, L-shaped, T-shaped, whatever (but not diagonally). Two beans fall from the top of the screen at the same time. The differance from other puzzle games is that you have an opponent to deal with. The opponent can either be another player or the computer, who takes the form of one of the bad guy robots from the Sonic the Hedgehog TV series awhile back. There's actually a goal in the Scenario Mode...beat all of the robots and you win. Each robot has their own personality and AI, so you have to change strategy accordingly. Whenever time you join four beans (called "freeing" them) a little garbage block called a "refugee" bean falls on your opponents side. The only way to get rid of them is to free a set of beans directly adjacent to it.

Now comes the fun part. Combos are when you cause a chain reacton in freeing beans. The more chain reactions, the more refugee beans fall on your opponent, utterly frustrating them and screw up their moves. Sometimes combos can happen by accident (which in truth is how I managed to get anywhere in Scenario Mode, this game is HARD!). But unlike games like Tetris, where you really only clear multiple lines in order to gain mad points or impress members of the opposite gender, you HAVE to create combos in order to survive.

For newcomers, this game has a practice mode, where the refugee beans are turned off. It even allows 2 people to practice simultaniously, which is a real improvement over other two player games where you must stay there and get bored while your future opponent gets himself ready.

The graphics are pretty dandy, it's really something watching those beans form together. Their eyes bulge out and they pop...sorta cute. The music in Practice Mode rocks, it's very cool, as is the two-player mode! The tune in Scenario Mode is OK, but it coulda been better, none. of these tunes are out of place. This is where Mean Bean beats out Kirby's Avalanche, better tunes.

The control, as usual with puzzle games, is perfect. You move a bean left, it goes left... move it right, it goes right...drop it, it goes down. Press buttons to rotate it. You have less time to react when the game starts speeding up, but you still have 100% responsive controls!

But, still, Mean Bean beats Kirby by two points: better music, and Avalanche doesn't have a password feature. This game is hard enough as it is (and I'm only playing at difficulty NORMAL!). There are things to help you out when playing. Sometimes, when playing, a rabbit dude comes down and turnes a lot blocks one color, therefore making them all dissapear. Other times a giant bean comes down and crushes all beans below it. I am not sure if either of these are in Kirby's Avalanche, but neither happen too often in Mean Bean (I have no idea what causes them, they may be random).

MEAN BEAN MACHINE HAS TO BE ONE OF THE MOST ADDICTIVE PUZZLE GAMES EVER!!!! If you can find it, definately pick it up, you won't regret it! If you have a Super NES, but don't own a Genesis, then pick up Kirby's Avalanche (since they're both virtually the same game anyways, so similar, in fact, that on their Top 100, EGM put them both on the same rank!) Trust me, you'll love both. Neither one should be hard to find, especially now that Mean Bean has been re-released on the Sonic Classics Compilation Cart for Genesis (which is how I got it, $14, not bad...) and I had no trouble finding Avalanche either..... ENJOY!!!!