COLUMNS CROWN! IT'S THE REVIEW! TIME TO READ!
While Strolling through my local FuncoLand (Gamestop, whatever) I found myself perusing the rack of used SNES games when I noticed Columns Crown in the new GBA games section. I bought the game and gave if a try. I knew Columns was a puzzle game, yet this was my first outing with the game.
The objective in Columns is to link 3 or more jewels in a row, either vertically, horizontally or diagonally. Pretty simple, right? Right. Just like Tetris, the concept is simple, yet the actual playing can get hectic and complex. I tried playing Columns like Tetris, and failed miserably. Tetris is Tetris. This is Columns. Once I got that into my head, I was getting 3 link combos in no time.
Columns Crown does have a story to it, if you could call it that. Princess Dazzle is about to become Queen, yet the Columns Crown has had all its Magic Gems stolen. So she decides to do what any other royal person would do; tell somebody else to do it. Enter Jade and Ruby, two of her classmates, and both are charged with the task of finding the 24 missing Gems for the royal hat. Well, at least story is not a very integral part of a puzzle game. At least the effort was there.
There are 3 main modes in the single player. The first is Survival Mode, which is straight up puzzle game action. Last as long as you can without filling up the center all the way up to the top. Scores are based on the number of gems you clear from the puzzle field. As you get more jewels cleared, the level increases and the jewel stacks begin to fall faster. Thankfully, sometimes you encounter some breathing room as some levels slow down the rate of drop. Some levels get hectic and require instant decisions. You are being graded during the Survival, which is represented by a letter grade in the top left hand corner. As your progress, your grade increases from D to A with all the various plus and minus denominations (B+, C-, etc.) Your grade is determined not only by how many jewels you clear, but how you do it (link combos and such). Should your center stack get piled up to the top, the game is over and you are graded on your performance in several categories like Luck, Agility, etc. If you progress far enough, you receive one of the Magic Gems you are being forced to find.
Another mode is the Flash Columns Mode, which requires you to only clear certain gems from the field. The early stages are easy-going and only require you to clear one or two jewels, almost completely unhindered by random pieces. The later stages in this mode get downright challenging and mind-throbbing as you are sometimes forced to clear four or more jewels in a sea of scattered jewels. Every fifth stage is a so called "Challenging stage" which is really a misnomer, as usually you can clear these stages with just one jewel drop.
The last mode is Vs. Com where you enter into a contest to see who can last the longest in a game of columns. As you clear gems, your magic meter to the right of the field will reach maximum and you have the opportunity to utilize a Magic Gem, which releases a spirit elemental which helps you by causing negative effects to your opponents or positive effects to you. Some of these attacks are very evil, like the elemental which turns your opponents arena upside down. The multiplayer mode of Columns crown is exactly like this single-player mode.
You can link with a single pak, yet the options are very limited. With one pak, you can either be Jade or Ruby, except whoever has the pak gets to pick, and the other player is forced to have the character not chosen. Also, specific characters have their own unique Magic Gems elementals. Not so in the Single-pak multiplayer, where the only Elementals powers allowed are those of the pak-owner player.
The graphics are not terrific or anything to shout about, but they are functional and are not so terrible as to be a detriment. The characters are well animated and the backgrounds movement actually serves as a speed gauge for the dropping jewels. The only instance off graphical flaw is the Columns Crown itself. How did such a good render in the intro turn into that rotating mess of pixels in the Magic Gem counts screen?
The sound is quite the same way. Some of it is catchy, but really, the sound and sound effects are very forgettable, which is a blessing in disguise as the music does not intrude on your concentration.
With all of the Gameplay modes, it will be a long time before you get tired of this game. That is, if you like Columns. Columns Crown is one of those love-it-or-hate-it type of games. Either you the love the spatial projecting and speculation involved in the Columns puzzle scheme or you do not.