In another unprecedented ‘Sonic’ port over to Game Gear and Master System from the Mega Drive, Dr Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine pits you against 13 stages of puzzle-mania! Basically, beans drop endlessly from the top of your chamber. The aim of the game is to link up four or more of the same colour to make them disappear, and in doing so foil your opponent in achieving the same goal. You see, when you release beans, ‘Refugee Beans’ come dropping into the chamber of your rival, blocking his chamber up. The player who fills up their chamber first is the loser.
You can rack up combos – by releasing more than one set of beans, one after the other – which can deal more damage to your opponent. There are many features to enjoy in this 8-Bit version of the Mega Drive puzzler – the main mode being ‘Scenario’, in which you tackle 12 robots in 13 stages for bean supremacy. The story goes that Robotnik’s henchmen are trying to imprison the beans, and by chaining them together you can instead free them.
The learning curve is pretty decent, with dumbarse robots at the start, slowly upping the pressure during the last 5 levels. Beat all 12 stages, and you have to face off against Dr. Robotnik himself. Watch out – he’s no softie! If you’d rather have a human opponent, then there’s a 2 Player Vs. mode as well. The only downer here is that on the Game Gear version, you’ll need the extremely rare Link Cable…
Once you have had enough of the Scenario mode, there’s plenty more to keep you going. If you want to hone your ‘beaning’ skills a little bit, you can head to the Exercise Mode, where the Hasbean character will be watching your every move, and further distracting you from your play, until you want to rip his head off— Ah, er… not that I have anything against little Hasbean, of course…
Another Mode you can play, exclusive to the Master System and Game Gear versions, is the Puzzle Mode. This is where the game will test your thinking strategy and reflexes in many different Lessons – ranging from easy ones (such as eliminating a single Refugee Bean), to complex ones later on. And we’re talking real complex.
Unlike the crappy Sonic Spinball port on Game Gear and Master System, Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine isn’t half bad. Maybe I’m just a sucker for addictive puzzle games, but this really does try to get the best out of its respective consoles. I wouldn’t recommend buying this if you already have the Mega Drive version (unless you wanna play it on the move) but it’s a nifty little game in it’s own right. It hasn’t lost any of it’s playability, even if the graphics aren’t the best we’ve seen on the Game Gear.
Another thing to note is that there doesn’t seem to be an Options screen. But, who needs them when the difficulty curve is already excellent and the controls are perfect? The only thing that drags the score down here is the fact that this isn’t a perfectly faithful recreation of the madness you can have on the Mega Drive version. But all in all, this is a worthy 8-Bit version of Mean Bean Machine indeed.