Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine
  • Genre:
    • Puzzle
  • Developer:
    • Compile
  • Publisher:
    • Sega
  • Released:
    Genesis
    • US 11/26/1993
    • UK November 1993
    GG
    • US December 1993
    • UK January 1994
    SMS
    • UK 07/26/1994
Score: 75%

This review was published on 02/04/2015.

Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine is a puzzle video game developed by Compile and published by Sega for the Sega Genesis, Sega Game Gear, and Sega Master System. It was released for the Genesis and Mega Drive in North America on November 26, 1993, and Europe in November 1993, respectively. The Game Gear version was released in North America in December 1993 and Europe in January 1994. As for the Master System version, it only got released in Europe on July 26, 1994. Initially, this game had no relation to the Sonic the Hedgehog series and was originally released in Japan as Puyo Puyo on December 18, 1992. The game was rebranded with Sonic the Hedgehog characters to make it an easier sell in the West. Technically, it's the first Puyo Puyo game to be released in the West, even though it wasn't branded as such. Oddly enough, the game is based on the animated series known as Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, so it's not canon to the main series. Also, this game doesn't even feature Sonic himself! In any case, this is nothing more than a traditional Puyo Puyo game, so if you like that kind of puzzler, you should be cool with this one.

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Dr. Robotnik is a big jerk and wants to eliminate all fun and music on Mobius, which is the planet that the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog takes place. To accomplish this nefarious task, he kidnaps the happy citizens of Beanville and puts them inside of a giant roboticizing machine called the Mean Bean-Steaming Machine, hence the game's title. This machine was designed to turn living entities into robots that follow Robotnik's evil orders, so as you can guess, this is bad news for the denizens of Beanville. It is up to a mysterious nameless hero, that's you, to rescue the people of Beanville and ruin Robotnik's silly scheme. Strangely, the story doesn't bother to explain what happened to Sonic or why he isn't dealing with this situation. Maybe the spunky hedgehog went out on a vacation; who knows. I used to think that the anonymous hero you played as was Sonic, but there's no evidence to suggest that this is the case. Either way, Robotnik must be stopped, whether by blue hedgehog or by shady individual.

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Instead of frantically negotiating blocks like in similar games such as Tetris, you deal with beans in Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine. Makes sense, right? Two beans of varying colors will fall from the top of the screen and you can move them around with the d-pad and rotate them with the buttons. The idea is to match four or more beans of the same color to eliminate them, or as the game likes to call it, "free" them. Apparently, this game's definition of freedom is death. Matching more at a time is better than matching less. Conveniently, beans of the same color can be matched from all four sides, and they can even bend around other beans to a certain degree. If too many beans fill the screen, you lose, and losing is bad for your health. To prevent such a sordid fate, you will need to clear beans at a fast pace and try not to fall behind. These are very simple mechanics, but they take time to master. Game play wise, this game is exactly the same as Puyo Puyo.

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The main and first mode of Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine is scenario mode. This mode pits you against Robotnik's ruthless robots in intense bean battles. Both you and the robotic opponent will have a section of the screen dedicated to bean bashing. Each side focuses on eliminating beans on their side of the screen, and the last one standing wins. Before each match begins, there is a short scene with the robotic baddie saying a few words of stupidity at your general direction. Many of the robots are taken from the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon show, so if you're familiar with it, you'll recognize most of these faces. The foes get harder as you progress through the stages, eventually culminating in a final bean showdown with Robotnik himself. There's also a password feature that allows you to continue from where you last left off, which is nice. The game gets insanely hard later on, requiring nearly superhuman reflexes to win. Other than that, this is your standard puzzle game's single player mode.

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Simply clearing out the beans as you see them isn't good enough to win against the harder opponents. That's where chains come in. Chains are essential to attaining victory in this game, especially when dealing with tough opponents. A chain is formed when the elimination of one set of beans leads into the elimination of more beans. It's a chain reaction, basically. The benefit to getting chains isn't merely that you destroy more beans, though. The main reason you get chains is to send garbage beans over to the opponent's side of the bean arena. This is done in an attempt to make the opponent lose by filling their play area with too many beans. Watch out, though, because the opponent can do the same to you. Garbage beans, or as the game likes to call them, "refugee" beans, can only be cleared if nearby colored beans are eliminated. The bigger the chain, the more garbage beans get sent to the opponent. If a chain is big enough, it can be impossible for the other player to make a comeback. Often, all it takes is one giant chain to win. Setting up chains is a slow, deliberate process in this game though, so not everyone will like it.

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There are a couple of other modes in the game besides the main one. The first one is versus mode, which is pretty much the same as scenario mode, except you're going up against a human being instead of a computer. This is where the true fun lies... that is, if you have friends that share in your enthusiasm for bean busting. Then there's "exercise" mode, which is the same as the typical endless mode in many other puzzle games. In case you don't know what that is, it's a never ending mode that lasts as long as you don't lose, and the point is to get the highest score possible. Normally, modes like these are solitary experiences, but the one in this game allows a friend to join in on the fun to compete for the high score. There's a mode exclusive to the Game Gear and Master System versions called puzzle mode, wherein you must complete special challenges while clearing beans. It's a cool mode, but not cool enough to justify the severe drop in graphical and audio quality of the 8-bit versions. Those are all the other modes available, so if these don't hold your attention, then you're out of luck.

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This game is a mean, lean, bean machine. Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine is really just Puyo Puyo with a different paintjob. That should be a boon for anyone that likes Puyo Puyo, but a detriment for those that don't. The graphics and music are reasonable, but they're easily bested by Kirby's Avalanche, which is another Puyo Puyo clone on the Super Nintendo. This is a puzzle game for the slow and methodical types, as each chain takes a lot of effort to put together, way more than in other puzzle games of this description. At the end of the day, Puyo Puyo is one of the better puzzlers out there, up there with the greats like Tetris and Dr. Mario. Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine may not be the best representation of Puyo Puyo, but it's still good.

Word Count: 1,302

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