Mean beans and robots. What more could you need?
When I was a child, one of my favorite Sega Genesis games was Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine. Back then, the Sonic franchise consumed my time; Sonic 2 is still one of my favorite games of old.
The 90’s were filled with Sega gems, particularly Sonic (3D Blast and Pinball were two of my other favorites). It was an obvious move to take the Mean Bean Machine portable and put it on the Sega Game Gear. What better, then, to port it to the Nintendo 3DS years after?
Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine is a Tetris style game where you compete against a slew of Eggman’s fiendish robot minions in order to defeat the nefarious doctor. In Mean Bean Machine, you’re given two beans of an assortment of colors to drop on your side of the level.
Connecting four beans will remove them from the map, and if you chain bean removals together, you’ll send stone beans to your opponent’s side, causing serious issues and often panic. For me, Machine was about strategy, perhaps more so than any other Tetris game of my childhood (though most of those games were also awesome).
But this is not a review of the Sega Genesis Mean Bean Machine. As a child, I never had the opportunity to play Machine on the Gamegear (though I did have a Game Gear and its version of Sonic 2). Still, for approximately $4, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit a classic, even if it wasn’t an exact replica of the original.
What I found within the Game Gear/3DS version of Mean Bean Machine was, for the most part, pleasantly surprising. The Game Gear version consisted of the same number of enemy robots and Robotnik (13 stages), each increasing in difficulty.
The first difference that really struck me as noticeable in this version of Mean Bean Machine was the speed at which the beans dropped. In the Genesis version, the beans dropped at
In the Genesis version, the beans dropped at slow pace to begin with and, by the final level, sped up to intense levels. On the Game Gear/3DS, the beans felt like they fell a lot faster than usual, and by Dr. Robotnik, I found myself flinging buttons in order to properly place my beans.
This may be a result of the minuscule screen I was required to play one, or it may be that the Game Gear version was programmed differently. Either way, the increased speed elevated the difficulty, but it didn’t make the game impossible (I still beat it after a few nights, playing in bed before I fell asleep).
The small screen real estate did make moving the beans more difficult, and it made seeing the upcoming beans tougher, too. In essence, it complicated the game much more than it needed to be.
On the bright side, the gameplay remained its good, fun self. Using the B button on the 3DS, you can flip-flop your beans into proper positions and construct your strategy. I like to, when playing the computer, split up my bottom row of beans with a few colors in order to maximize combos when the beans connect and drop.
This strategy allows me to send over a large number of stone beans to my enemy, which often results in an instant or quick victory. Outside of the B button and directional pad to move the beans, there aren’t really any other controls.
Music, too, in Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine is filled with nostalgia. The soundtrack rang with splendor, and, as victory or defeat approached, piled on a sense of urgency or success. When combined with the mocking or panicking hand drawn robotic enemies, the music and aesthetics set an interesting and palpable atmosphere. And for a Tetris-esque game to be able to do that is pretty impressive. Unfortunately, on the small screen, the character animations are obscured, and I only ever really got to see the enemies before or after the match began. Speaking of the character animations, the Game Gear version of
Unfortunately, on the small screen, the character animations are obscured, and I only ever really got to see the enemies before or after the match began. Speaking of the character animations, the Game Gear version of Machine could not afford to fit the pre-battle conversations each character flung at you in the Genesis version. In essence,
In essence, Machine for Game Gear came replete with zero narrative beyond the opening and concluding images. There wasn’t necessarily an in-depth series of dialogues in the Genesis version, but it was nice to have a backstory.
For about $4, Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine is worth every penny — even for the Game Gear version. The game is one that is loaded with replay value; any time I wish to play one of the most addicting games I’ve had a chance to play, I can now just simply open up my 3DS.
My biggest concern is that the Game Gear version does not include a competitive mode, which was one of my favorite features of the Genesis version (and, subsequently, is available on the PS3 Sonic collection disc).
If you’re a fan of the genre and own a 3DS, I highly recommend this one. Even if you only play through the game once, the game is a hell of a lot of fun. If you’ve never played the game before, it’s a piece of gaming lore that I’d recommend every gamer play at least once.