As the faithful readers of GI know, I’m a child of the ’80s and ’90s. I owned an NES, Genesis and a Game Gear, but not a Game Boy. To satisfy my portable gaming needs, I got a few Game Gear games that would hold my attention. I’m not much of a puzzle man, but one stood out as an alternative to the highly popular Tetris at the time: Columns. Columns’ gameplay is similar to Tetris, except that you’re matching various gems with each other before their row known as — you guessed it — columns stack up, ultimately ending your game. The game backstory claims that its origins hails from Middle Eastern merchants with also a little bit of Greece mixed in. Control of the columns is simple: Guide the columns’ rows and arrange pieces to fit. It’s a simple concept that is quickly understood. You can be a newbie or a puzzle expert and still jump into playing. There’s also an option to change the items from jewels, to fruit, dice, or traditional playing card suits, which livens up the gameplay slightly. The graphics are top-notch in both versions. The graphics are colorful and more than just bricks being moved around. They look good even in a small setting like the Game Gear. The music in Columns varies from ancient Roman tunes to a futuristic beat that is calming during gameplay. The soundtrack is a nice mental break for the mind, which helps when you’re possibly frantically making matches. Columns is an underestimated crown jewel that shines on all Sega systems. It’s a fun alternative to Tetris with a nice calming effect to boot. Hunt down this different but brilliant puzzle choice.
Building blocks of Columns
In 1989, Jay Geertsen, a developer for Hewlett-Packard, was looking to port a software tool to HP’s in-house operating system for its work computers. Geertsen believed there was a better way to learn skills and have fun at the same time. He came up with modifying Tic Tac-Toe and applied it as a way to help software engineers practice their programing. The result: Once they heard about Geertsen’s work through third parties, Sega called him and inquired about development. Check out his story through this link: https://www.pressreader.com/uk/retro-gamer/20190711/281599537055264.
Ah, Sonic the Hedgehog. Sega’s top mascot has had a bit of a revival lately. From trilogy games on the Genesis and other systems developed by Sega and its competitors to comic books and various merchandise, cartoon series and two blockbuster movies, Sonic and Co. are living large. He reached a similar zenith in his second game — Sonic the Hedgehog 2 — which also introduced fans to his equal-yet-unique partner, Miles Prower aka “Tails” (because he’s a two-tailed fox) who joins our favorite blue speedy demon in a new battle to stop Dr. Robotnik. In Sonic 2, Sonic and Tails and their friends are enjoying peaceful days on West Island until Dr. Robotnik and his cronies arrive, kidnapping the inhabitants, and transforming them into robotic slaves. The slaves would help Robotnik search for the legendary Chaos Emeralds, which he plans to use to power his space station. With Robotnik’s latest threat, It’s up to Sonic and Tails to find the Emeralds to foil Robotnik and his dreams for world domination. Gameplay in Sonic 2 is much like the first Sonic game, but with some new additions. Each level or “act” (there are 20 in total) will have you bashing enemies and avoiding various hazards such as spikes and bottomless pits. While dashing through you must utilize some patience and timing to avoid these various obstacles. Sonic is still easy to control but he now also has a cool new trick called the Spin Dash. This lets him go even faster and take down more enemies. Tails has the same skills, but his two tails give him a little more flair. Sonic 2 has the option of Sonic or Tails going after Robotnik alone or joining forces in either single- or two-player modes. Robotnik has some new allies in the form of a robotic monkey named Coconuts and a robotic crab named Thrasher whose shell is comprised of a pinball bumper. With Robotnik having new methods to attack and hench bots to carry them out, the usual powerups (Rings, Speed Sneakers, and invincibility) are vast and abundant, but Sonic and Tails can take advantage of a new power shield that gives temporary protection against hits. The graphics are of 16-bit quality, but they do an excellent job of shining, whether it’s characters or backgrounds. Each stage is bursting with high energy color; the Chemical Plant Zone, Metropolis Zone and the bonus stages are my some of my personal favorites. I was pleased with Sonic 2’s music from beginning to end as it paired perfectly with the stages, beat by beat. The Green Hill, Chemical Plant, Casino Night and Mystic Cave zones hit the spot with special recognition for the Sky Chase Zone for its relaxing beats. Sonic 2 is worthy of revisiting often, especially if you want to experience 16-bit gaming at its finest. There is no doubt that Sonic 2 would be a sure-fire hit game to introduce to a new generation of gamers looking to experience good old-school gaming. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a certifiable banger in the annals of video game history. One of the best sequels ever released kept Sega in the 16-bit wars and gave us legendary Sonic gameplay that still holds up. Spin Dash on blue blur.
As a child of the ’90s, I grew up on the “Disney Afternoon” cartoon lineup. All the shows received the video game treatment for either 8‑bit, 16-bit systems or for both consoles at the time. I had a Sega Genesis and wondered when Disney would license a game based on a DA show for Genesis. Little did I know, Sega had license deals with Disney directly, and like Disney games made by Capcom, Sega made a game that wasn’t another “DuckTales,” but was set in the series’ universe and had its regular characters. His name is Donald Duck, and he made his debut in platform gaming in “QuackShot Starring Donald Duck.” In QuackShot, Donald sets out on a treasure hunt stretching across nine stages. One day in Duckburg, Donald visits his Uncle Scrooge and while checking out his library, Donald stumbles upon a message from King Grazuia, an old ruler of the Great Duck Kingdom who has hidden his legendary treasure across the world. Enclosed with the message is a map that Donald believes leads to treasure that would make him richer than Uncle Scrooge. However, Big Bad Pete and his gang also find out about the treasure and set off after Donald, turning the treasure hunt into a race to see who gets it first. Control of our daring adventurer is simple with the d‑pad and, combined with abundant options, ensures that you can set up movement, weapon use and dashing to specific buyouts. Donald may have odds against him, but he has some advantages with his plunger gun utilizing yellow plungers to stop Pete’s henchmen and other foes temporarily with an unlimited supply, and a reloadable popcorn gun that shoots five kernels at once. Donald also has some of the “DuckTales” crew helping him: Nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie provide transportation to each destination, and Gyro Gearloose provides Donald with bubblegum ammo that can break down obstacles. The MVP weapon in the game is the “quack attack,” which Donald can use to knock down any enemies instantly. I give credit to Sega for using Disney’s knowledge of Donald’s temper. The graphics and music were excellent, lively, and bright for an appropriately spry game. The downsides to “QuackShot” are few but are similarly found in most platform games. You must ensure perfect timing for Donald when he either crosses dangerous obstacles or performs his dash move. Also, mildly infuriating is small voice sample usage for the characters as this was not only a debut game for Donald, but also it is set in the DuckTales universe. There was so much untapped potential for rich, established history. Finally, you can only start the game in Duckburg, Mexico, or Transylvania. To pass later stages, you need a particular item, so there is a lot of backtracking unnecessarily. “QuackShot Starring Donald Duck” was one of the games that I started off with as a Genesis owner. A solid platformer, it showed that Sega had talent of developing consoles and legendary games using original and licensed characters. Most importantly, I got to see another Disney classic character get his limelight in his first video game with a starring role. Carry on Donald, carry on.