Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine
|Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine|
British cover art
|Series||Sonic the Hedgehog|
|Genre(s)||Falling block puzzle|
Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine[a] is a falling block puzzle video game developed by Compile and published by Sega. It was first released for the Mega Drive in North America and Europe in November 1993, and was also ported to the Game Gear and Master System in December 1993 and June 1994, respectively. The plot revolves around Sonic the Hedgehog antagonist Doctor Robotnik kidnapping residents from Beanville and turning them into robots, with the sole purpose of removing all joy and fun from the planet Mobius.
The gameplay is reminiscent of the Tetris series, in which the player must organise different coloured beans as they fall down a board. Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine is the Western release of Puyo Puyo and replaces all of its characters with those from the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, being primarily based on the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog animated series. It is also one of the few titles in the Sonic the Hedgehog series to not feature Sonic the Hedgehog himself. The game received mostly positive reviews, with critics praising the addictive gameplay and different modes, while criticising the difficulty and overuse of the falling block puzzle genre.
Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine is a puzzle game reminiscent of the Tetris games. The entirety of gameplay takes place across two grid-based boards: the left board is used by the player, while the right board is controlled by either artificial intelligence or a second player, depending on the game mode. The main objective of the game is to earn as many points as possible by grouping the same coloured beans together as they fall down on the board. The player must arrange beans into groups of at least four of the same colour; should they do this, the beans in the group will disappear and points will be accumulated. If the player drops a group of beans on an uneven surface, any bean left hanging will separate from the original group and will drop to the lowest point on the board. The player may also flip a group of falling beans horizontally or vertically.
When playing against an opponent, the player may block their opponent's moves by dropping "refugee beans" into their board. Refugee beans are grey-coloured and cannot be grouped with any other colour, nor with refugee beans themselves. They can only be removed from the board by having them touch an adjacent cluster of disappearing coloured beans. The only way to win the game or progress to the next level is to wait until the other player's board completely fills up with beans. The game relies on a password save system which is only obtainable once the player completes a level.
The game has three main modes. "Scenario Mode" contains the game's main story, and revolves around the player going through thirteen levels facing against Robotnik's henchmen before battling against Robotnik himself, in the final level. As levels progress, Robotnik's henchmen become increasingly skilled and beans begin to fall faster, making it more difficult to arrange them into desirable configurations. The second mode, "1P VS. 2P Mode", is the multiplayer component of the game and requires a second controller. The main player is given a choice of playing up to 15 games on five difficulty levels: easiest, easy, normal, hard and hardest. As with "Scenario Mode", the first player controls the left board whilst the second player controls the right. The rules and gameplay of the multiplayer component is exactly the same as "Scenario Mode". The final mode is "Exercise Mode", which is used purely for practice.
The game is set on the planet Mobius, which is inhabited by bean-like creatures. Doctor Robotnik conceives of a plan to bring terror to the world by kidnapping the citizens of Beanville and turning them into robot slaves, and eventually creating an army that will help him rid the planet of fun and joy. To achieve this, he creates the "Mean Bean-Steaming Machine" in order to transform the bean-like creatures into robots. Putting his plan into motion, Robotnik sends out his henchbots to gather all the bean-like creatures and group them together in dark dungeons so they can be sent to the Mean Bean-Steaming Machine. The rest of the game's story revolves around the player-character, "Has Bean", and their journey to stop Robotnik's henchmen by breaking into the dungeons and freeing the bean-like creatures.
Development and release
Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine is a clone of Puyo Puyo, a Japanese falling block puzzle game developed by Compile and originally released for the MSX2 in 1991. Sega expressed interest in releasing the game for the United States and Europe, however, fearing that the product would not be popular with the Western audience, the company decided to replace the characters of Puyo Puyo with those featured in the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, particularly those from the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog animated series, which aired in the autumn of 1993.
The game was released in November 1993 in both North America and Europe. An 8-bit version was released for the Game Gear in the same year and the Sega Master System in the following year. Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine has also appeared in retrospective compilations, such as the Sonic Mega Collection for the Nintendo GameCube in 2002, Sonic Mega Collection Plus for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox in 2004; which also contains the Game Gear version, and Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection (known as Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection in North America) for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2009. In 2006, Sega released the game on the Wii's Virtual Console. In 2010, it was released on Microsoft Windows via Steam.
Critics praised the various aspects of gameplay, although the difficulty and overuse of the puzzle genre were negative factors. Andy Dyer from Mega acknowledged that the game had a simple concept and also observed that it did not provide enough of a challenge. Lucas Thomas of IGN enjoyed the game's array of puzzles and recognised that its design was intended to encourage two-player competition. Reviewing the Mega Drive version, Damien McFerran of NintendoLife similarly echoed Thomas' opinion of the game's intention to encourage two-player competition, and also noted that it provided a "decent" challenge despite opining that a single player could get bored easily. In contrast, Andrew Webster of Gamezebo criticised the high level of difficulty and the game's general accessibility due to its "ancient" password save system. Aaron Thomas of GameSpot found the game difficult to recommend due to the availability of free Puyo Puyo clones on the PC, but commended its basic mechanics, wide range of game modes, and gradually increasing difficulty. Eurogamer's Kristan Reed labelled the game as a "fairly unapologetic reskin" of Puyo Puyo and thought that Sega decided to "shoehorn" the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise in order to enhance their sales, although Reed admitted the gameplay was solid and addictive. A reviewer from Jeuxvideo.com questioned the game's originality, saying that "stacking beans to make them disappear is not a new concept" but would still satisfy fans of the genre. Amanda Tipping from Computer and Video Games thought that the game was as addictive and as puzzling as the Tetris series, and also preferred the game's colourful visuals as opposed to Tetris.
The Game Gear version was well received. In a retrospective review, Ron DelVillano from NintendoLife praised the game's wide variety of game modes but noted the soundtrack's lack of diversity. DelVillano also thought that the graphics had not aged well as of 2013, but accepted that games in the puzzle genre did not require prominent visuals. In similar vein, a reviewer from Joypad opined that the game's graphics were not "a joy" to look at, but understood that it was "normal" for a game of that genre. Neal Ronaghan of Nintendo World Report lauded the game's addicting and "fun" puzzle-orientated gameplay, but admitted it contained flaws due to the limitations of the Game Gear.
- Thomas, Lucas (11 December 2006). "Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine review – The Genesis take on the classic puzzler, Puyo Puyo". IGN. Ziff Davis. Archived from the original on 22 July 2015. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
- "Test Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine sur MD". Jeuxvideo.com (in French). Webedia. 21 January 2011. Archived from the original on 18 July 2012. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
- Compile 1993, p. 6.
- Compile 1993, p. 7.
- Compile 1993, p. 15.
- Compile 1993, p. 10.
- Webster, Andrew (8 October 2010). "Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine Review". Gamezebo. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
- Compile 1993, p. 4, 8.
- Compile 1993, pp. 11–12.
- Compile 1993, p. 11.
- Compile 1993, p. 13.
- Compile 1993, p. 1.
- Reed, Kristan (23 January 2007). "Virtual Console: SEGA Mega Drive". Eurogamer. Eurogamer Network. p. 2. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
- "Hardcore Gaming 101: Puyo Puyo". Hardcore Gaming 101. Archived from the original on 16 February 2012. Retrieved 11 February 2017.
- Electronic Gaming Monthly staff 1993, p. 256.
- DelVillano, Ron (18 January 2013). "Review: Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine (3DS eShop / Game Gear)". Nintendolife.
- Ronaghan, Neal (18 June 2013). "Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine". Nintendo World Report.
- Bramwell, Tom (19 March 2003). "Sonic Mega Collection review". Eurogamer. Eurogamer Network. Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
- Score, Avery (2 November 2004). "Sonic Mega Collection Plus Review". GameSpot. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
- "Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection overview". Game Informer. Gamestop Network. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
- "Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine on Steam". Steam. Retrieved 24 November 2013.
- "Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine aggregate score". GameRankings. CBS Interactive.
- Tipping 1993, p. 93.
- Thomas, Aaron (9 January 2007). "Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine Review". GameSpot. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on 24 March 2016. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
- McFerran, Damien (12 December 2006). "Review: Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine (MD)". Nintendolife. Archived from the original on 6 September 2015.
- Dyer 1994, p. 49.
- Joypad staff 1994, p. 109.
- Compile (1993). Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine instruction manual (US Genesis). Sega. pp. 1–19.
- Dyer, Andy (January 1994). "Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine review". Mega. Maverick Magazines (16): 48–49.
- Joypad staff (28 February 1994). "Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine review (Game Gear)". Joypad (in French). Yellow Media (28): 109.
- Electronic Gaming Monthly staff (November 1993). "Preview: The Mean Beans of Robotnik's Machine". Electronic Gaming Monthly. Future plc (52): 256.
- Tipping, Amanda (November 1993). "Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine review" (PDF). Computer and Video Games. Future plc (146): 93. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
- Alternatively named Dr. Robotnik and His Mean Bean Machine in European countries outside the United Kingdom.