Columns (video game)

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Cover art
Developer(s) Sega
Publisher(s) Sega
Composer(s) Tokuhiko Uwabo
Platform(s) Arcade, Atari ST, Sega Master System, Sega Mega Drive, Sega Mega-CD, Sega Game Gear, PC Engine, NEC PC-9801, MSX2, Super Famicom, Game Boy Color, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Virtual Console, iOS, Cloud (OnLive)
Release date(s) Arcade
Mega Drive
  • NA June 29, 1990
  • JP June 30, 1990
Game Gear
  • JP October 6, 1990
  • EU April 26, 1991
  • NA April 26, 1991
  • JP December, 1990
PC Engine
  • JP March 29, 1991
Genre(s) Puzzle
Mode(s) Up to 2 players, simultaneously
Cabinet Upright
Display Raster, standard resolution (320X224) 32 Colors

Columns (Japanese: コラムス Hepburn: Koramusu?) is a match-three puzzle video game, first created in 1989 by Jay Geertsen. Early versions of the game were made and ported among early computer platforms, and then the Atari ST,[1] until 1990, when Jay Geertsen sold the rights to Sega, where it was ported to several Sega consoles.


Columns was one of the many Tetris-like puzzles that appeared after that game's great success in the late 1980s.[2] It takes place inside a tall, rectangular playing area. Columns of three different symbols (such as differently-colored jewels) appear, one at a time, at the top of the well and fall to the bottom, landing either on the floor or on top of previously-fallen "Columns".

While a column is falling, the player can move it left and right, and can also cycle the positions of the symbols within it.

If, after a column has fallen, there are three or more of the same symbols connected in a straight line horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, those symbols disappear. The pile of columns then settles under gravity. If this causes three or more other symbols to become aligned, they also disappear and the pile settles again. This process repeats as many times as necessary. It is not uncommon for this to happen three or four times in a row - it often happens by accident when the well is becoming crowded. If the well fills beyond the top of the screen, the game ends.

Occasionally, a special column called the Magic Jewel Column appears. The Magic Jewel flashes with different colors and when it lands, it destroys all the jewels with the same color as the one underneath it.

The columns fall at a faster rate as the player progresses. The goal of the game is to play for as long as possible before the well fills up with Jewels.

Some ports of the game offer alternate game modes as well. "Flash columns" involves mining their way through a set number of lines to get to a flashing jewel at the bottom. "Doubles" allows two players work together in the same well. "Time trial" involves racking up as many points as possible within the time limit.

Game Gear[edit]

Columns was the first pack-in game for the Sega Game Gear. This version was slightly different from the Mega Drive version and its soundtrack was transposed and rearranged due to the limitations of the handheld's sound chip. While the columns themselves were updated for the Mega Drive version, the overall decoration was less like a cartoon in the Game Gear version and instead more artistically designed. Lastly, the Game Gear version had a feature that allowed the player to change the jewels to fruit, squares, dice, or card shapes (clubs, diamonds, spades).

Ports and sequels[edit]

Many sequels and spin-offs were produced: Columns II: The Voyage Through Time, Columns III: Revenge of Columns, Columns '97, Sakura Taisen: Hanagumi Taisen Columns 1 & 2, and many compilations and re-releases (Columns Arcade Collection, Sega Ages Vol. 07: Columns) as well. Because Columns was made by Sega, versions were made available on the Master System, Mega Drive, Mega-CD, Game Gear, Saturn, and Dreamcast. Additional versions of the game have also been made available on PC Engine, Game Boy Advance, and PlayStation 2. The Game Boy Color version was specifically called Columns GB: Osamu Tezuka Characters, where it featured many of his characters such as Kimba and Astroboy, but also featured slightly less known characters such as Unico.

On November 7, 2006, Columns was released as part of the game Sega Genesis Collection for the PlayStation 2, and later on another release of the above compilation for PlayStation Portable. On December 4, 2006 the title was released on Nintendo's Virtual Console for 800 Wii Points. It is also included on Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.[3] Most recently the game was ported to iOS by Sega. It comes in a package deal from the App Store along with a version of Puyo Pop for $5.

In 1999, developers Marigul programmed a Super Famicom version of Columns with a "Versus Mode" that features different music, characters and game play similar to the original and was released by Media Factory.[4]


Columns has been cloned many times on different computers. Below is listed the title list.

Title Platform Release date Developer Publisher Notes
Coloris Amiga 1990 Signum Victoriae Avesoft
Magic Jewelry NES 1990 Hwang Shinwei RCM Group The title is the best known of all his clones, and was released on unlicensed Famicom multicarts.
Columns[5] Sinclair ZX Spectrum 1991 Piter Ltd. Piter Ltd.
Magic Jewelry II NES 1991 Hwang Shinwei RCM Group With the addition of new features, it is the sequel of Magic Jewelry.
Jewel Master Pelican VG Pocket Unknown Jungletac Jungletac
Jewel Master 2 VG Pocket Caplet Unknown Jungletac Jungletac An only sequel of Jewel Master, that adds the ability to rotate columns horizontally like Super Columns.
Yahoo! Towers Java Unknown Yahoo! Games Yahoo! Games This clone allows up to eight players to compete against each other.
BREF Columns [6] IOS, Android 2013 Mumblecore Mumblecore
Magic Jewelry 3 IOS, Android 2015 Guolin Ou Guolin Ou A magic column appears when a level is cleared, with which a player can clear all the jewels in same color.


Tokuhiko Uwabo composed the music for Columns. The song "Clotho" is named after the Greek Moira of the same name, related to the Greek flavor of some of the game's art. The other main songs are titled "Atropos" and "Lathesis", other "Moirai".


Review scores
Publication Score
MegaTech 88%[7]

Reviewing the game's appearance in Sega Arcade Classics for the Sega CD, Glenn Rubenstein gave it a B+, describing it as "like Tetris but a bit better."[8]

Mega placed the game at number 34 in their "Top Mega Drive Games of All Time".[9]

When the game was released in Brazil by TecToy, it received the title of "Shapes & Columns", instead of the original name that appears in the title.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Columns for Atari ST
  2. ^ "The Maturation of Computer Entertainment: Warming The Global Village". Computer Gaming World. 1990-07-08. p. 11. Retrieved 16 November 2013. 
  3. ^ Parish, Jeremy (2006-10-31). "Wii Virtual Console Lineup Unveiled". Retrieved 2006-11-01. 
  4. ^ "Columns for SNES". GameFAQs. Retrieved 2009-06-13. 
  5. ^ "WOS entry for 'Columns'". World of Spectrum. Retrieved 2006-09-06. 
  6. ^ "Website for BREF Columns". 
  7. ^ MegaTech rating, EMAP, issue 5, page 78, May 1992
  8. ^ Rubenstein, Glenn (January 1993). "At the Controls". Wizard (Wizard Entertainment) (17): 21–24. 
  9. ^ Mega magazine issue 1, page 76, Future Publishing, Oct 1992

External links[edit]