Columns (Sniper)
Genre: Puzzle
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega

Like the Game Boy version of Tetris, Columns features colorful blocks chunking downward across a solid-colored background. Quick recognition is key for a title like this and Columns scores there, with blocks that are distinctive, pleasing to look at, and detailed, but not so detailed that the player has difficulty making snap decisions. There are five different visual themes available, and the game's window borders and user interface are clean and easy to navigate.

Tokuhiko Uwabo's Mega Drive soundtrack has been converted to the Game Gear's sound chip, and if anything the tunes have benefitted from the softer, PSG-like sound that Sega's handheld generates. The "blocks disappearing" sound effect is a lovely chime noise that really fits the game's surreal, dream-like character.

Columns was one of the forefathers of the entire block-dropping puzzle subgenre, and the formula has aged very well. The dpad feel and button layout of the Game Gear is perfectly suited to games like this, and as such the title is exceedingly easy to play and enjoy.

In 1990, Sega needed and answer to Tetris and they found it with Jay Geertsen's now-classic Columns formula. Columns-- and puzzle games in general-- feel a little out of place on a big TV, but are right at home on a portable. As such, this release serves pefectly, even to the present day, as "the Game Gear's Tetris"-- which is in fact how some people refer to the title.

Sniper's verdict: