Columns Crown


   In the past, puzzle games have proven notoriously difficult to improve upon. While titles such as Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo have successfully invited several twists into the genre, the majority of sequels and ports bring little to the table in terms of innovation. With Columns Crown, Sega injects just enough life into the age-old puzzler to warrant a look from Columns fans as well as newcomers to the game.

 Edge-of-your-seat excitement
Rated E for Everyone unless you hate puppies and rainbows

   For the unfortunate Princess Dazzle, the transition to queenhood requires considerably more than a simple marriage to the prince of the kingdom next door. The Columns Crown, an ancestral heirloom of the Dazzle clan, must first be outfitted with the 24 Magic Gems in order to grant the princess her wish. The young princess recovers four of these gems within the castle walls, but the remaining jewels lie strewn about the kingdom, either lying in the open, sitting inside Shining Shrines, or in the possession of scheming thieves. The game's three modes of play allow Princess Dazzle's school friends, Jade and Ruby, to acquire the gems.

   Columns veterans will be able to jump right into Survival Mode and Flash Columns, as these two modes use the basic Columns method of play. Jewels fall from above in vertical groups of three and must be aligned so that like-colored jewels are placed in sets of three. Once a set is aligned either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, it disappears and any jewels above plummet to take the place of those that were just cleared. Every so often the game will drop a set of Black Magic Gems, which completely eliminate all of the colored jewels matching the one they land on. In Survival Mode, the player must clear as many jewels as possible in the face of increasing drop speed. Flash Columns mode is a time-oriented test, awarding a Magic Gem for every five levels cleared. The learning curve is very steep for the Columns newcomer (even on Easy mode), though with practice the game can eventually be eased into.

My mom's dragon fell so she did too
Rydia, age 4

   Fortunately, Columns Crown is more than the barebones original coupled with a poor plot. The game's Vs. modes allow players to bring strategic mayhem to the field of play via Elementals, potent monsters that reside inside the Magic Gems. A player can choose any five of the Magic Gems he or she has earned to take into battle against the CPU or another player. As jewels are cleared from the field, a gauge will rise over time. Once the gauge is filled, a colored Elemental gem will fall, and can be activated in the same way a normal jewel would be cleared. Elemental attacks range from turning your opponent's blocks invisible to violently shaking up the battlefield and obscuring the challenger's view. Master Columns strategists will combine Elementals to effectively decimate their rivals. Finally, besting the CPU opponents will grant the player even more Magic Gems. These thieves command Elementals of their own, so victory does not come easy.

   The game's two-player Vs. mode is easily its strongest feature, enabling two Game Boy Advances to go head-to-head using only one copy of the game. Two copies can also be used in conjuction, and offer enhanced graphics as well as character vs. same character play. Vs. mode's inclusion of the Elementals gives standard Columns gameplay a kick that turns the game's two-player mode into a fierce competitive event.

   Columns Crown is a good update on a creaky old puzzler, offering just enough to deserve a look from fans of the series, though not quite enough to interest those who are not. In the end, the game comes close to being just another Columns title, but its innovations in Vs. play give it a slight advantage over other puzzlers.

Review by Alex Fraioli, GIA.
Columns Crown
Developer WOW Entertainment
Publisher Sega / THQ
Genre Puzzle
Medium Cartridge
Platform Game Boy Advance
Release Date  12.13.01
Online Columns Crown demo available
7 screenshots
2 character groups
US box art