Puzzle games have always been popular. Humans clearly enjoy the mental challenge of solving a puzzle as well as the competitive challenge of solving it faster than a friend or opponent. One would presume that many puzzle games such as Tetris (1984), Columns (1989), Pipe Mania (1989) and Shanghai (1986) were cheap and easy to produce. Their popularity stems from the personal challenge as well as the fact that they are easy to learn but difficult to master. As the complexity of video games increased, how could game creators use the ideas from previous puzzle games and expand them for modern gamers of the 1990s? One answer was Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine.
Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine is a falling block puzzle game and can be played in single or two-player mode. It was developed by Compile Co., Ltd. and published by Sega. It was released on the following platforms:
Mega Drive and Game Gear in 1993
Master System in 1994
Sonic Mega Collection for the GameCube in 2002
Wii Virtual Console in 2006
Sega Mega Collection Plus for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox in 2004
Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2009
Microsoft Windows in 2010
Nintendo 3DS in 2013
For this review, I played the version found on the Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection (2009).
On the planet Mobius, Dr. Robotnik, Sonic the Hedgehog’s arch nemesis, has created a Mean Bean-Steaming Machine in order to turn the peaceful inhabitants of Beanville into evil robots. Once he has his army, he intends to ensure that music and fun disappear from Mobius forever…what a miserable bugger!
The game is similar to Tetris (1984) and Columns (1989), in that blocks, or in this case two coloured beans, fall from the top of the screen. As they slowly descend, you must decide where to place them before they reach the bottom. You can rotate them in order to place them vertically or horizontally, as well as changing which order the coloured beans are placed in.
When beans of the same colour are either on top, below or either side of another bean of the same colour, they form a link. When you link four or more beans together, they will disappear allowing earning you points and allowing beans that were above them to fall directly downward. The more beans you make disappear, the higher your score. The game ends when either you or your opponent’s dungeon is completely filled with beans.
To make this game more challenging, if you make more than one set of coloured beans disappear in a chain reaction, for example, then ‘refugee’ beans appear above your opponent’s screen. They will eventually fall and block your opponent from matching beans together. These ‘refugee’ beans can be made to disappear by matching four or more of that same-coloured beans whilst the ‘refugee’ beans are directly above, below or adjacent to the matching ones.
The game is very easy to learn, and the controls are simple. A practice mode is available, but you really won’t need to bother with this unless you are a younger or more inexperienced gamer.
The graphics won’t blow you away, but they don’t need to. They are perfect for what this game is. They are bright and colourful, and beans are easily distinguishable.
The in-game music is very good. I particularly like the descending riff. I don’t know whether this riff was intentionally created to accentuate the fact that the beans are falling or whether this is a coincidence. Either way, I liked the music for this game.
Be warned, this game is not walk in the park! It is a tough game, and will take time and a multitude of continues to beat it. Luckily, the creators give you infinite continues and offer a password system so that you don’t need to keep going back to the beginning.
I’m not really a fan of these types of games but the more I played it, the more I enjoyed it. Its fun and really comes into its own in two-player mode.
Did I complete the game?
No, I couldn’t get past the 8th stage.
What the critics Said:
Computer & Video Games: “…is as addictive and frustrating as the game it’s based on, the famous puzzler Tetris. The beans are a lot cuter and colourful than a bunch of bricks, and you also have to compete against the computer, which plays on a screen next to you; this makes the game even more difficult to complete. The graphics are bright and colourful, although not too adventurous, but it’s all good, obsessive fun. Overall 90%”.
GamePro: “Despite a lot of similarities to Tetris, Columns, and other classic puzzlers, this game is no has-bean. The offensive strategy makes it especially fun when playing against a friend. Games of this kind seem few and far between for the Genesis, so fans of this genre should find Mean bean Machine a match made in heaven. Overall 4.375/5”.
Mega: “Don’t let the seemingly innocuous exterior and simplistic appearance put you off. Mean Bean Machine is a devilishly addictive game which even haters of all stings Sonic-related will love.” Overall 90%”.
My Verdict: “Bright, colourful with quirky music, this game is a lot of fun and particularly comes into its own in two-player mode. However, it is just too darn difficult in single player mode for the casual gamer. If you’re a fan of these sorts of puzzle games will love this game. If not, it is still worth a place in your collection.”
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 Andromeda, ‘Genesis ProReview – Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine’. (January 1994). Volume 6, Number 1:58. GamePro. https://retrocdn.net/images/e/ec/GamePro_US_054.pdf Accessed 5th May 2021).