Skip to content

ONM Remembered – #308

“The adventure to help Princess Dazzle begins…”

from Official Nintendo Magazine issue 113 (February 2002)

One thing I loved about the GBA was that it became a good outlet for old puzzle games to find a new home – Columns, Puyo Puyo Hot Potato. I, uh, admit I never actually played many of these games (been meaning to get around to it!), but I always appreciated the sentiment. It’s just soothing to know a stack of good ol’ puzzlers are out there, ready and waiting for whenever you need them.

It’s cute seeing Columns, of all things, get an anime-styled revamp to appeal to the kids… but, personally, that strips the game of half its charm. You know what I think of when I think Columns?

The incredibly depressing Mega Drive game. There’s something about that game, especially its tone, that feels like a pool of misery. It’s like a game you’d play after a relative has died. There’s something about its dry atmosphere, its dirge-like music, even the total banality of the gameplay… it should be strange and unappealing – and it is! – but somehow that exact combination just makes it click for me.
You think of puzzle games and you generally think of cute graphics and bouncy music. Tetris on Game Boy literally has no visual flair beyond the title screen, but its music carries the entire thing. Even when you lose, the high score music has an air of hopefulness to it. It’s got a touch of melancholy, but it also suggests, you can do it! Get back in there, stack those blocks and get a score that’ll make your momma proud!

Columns, though? That game’s like a goddamned funeral. Its Greek flavouring only drives home that this is a mausoleum, dedicated to things that are now a distant memory. All of the music options have an overwhelmingly sombre feel to them as if they’re an extra challenge, weighing down on your morale; even their loop points seem designed to emit a sense of hopelessness! The song may try, but even it is doomed to never progress. And when you lose, your entire board is wiped clean, your high score is but a text string of text along the bottom, and the whole game resets. It’s as if your game never even happened. All things must eventually return to dust.

Playing that game makes me think of funerals, and I love the shit out of it for that reason. What other puzzle game makes you think of death and the fragility of life, and not because it’s catastrophically awful?

One Comment

  1. I used to play Columns all the time before school on a friend’s Mega Drive and never recall getting feelings like this!

    Try Columns III, that’s got a story mode thing, a 5 player option, and the music is slightly jollier

    Even for reused themes:

    And the cover is hilarious, featuring the famous guy in a yellow shirtâ„¢:

    Saturday, August 8, 2015 at 8:26 pm | Permalink