Columns (video game)

Columns (Japanese: コラムス, Hepburn: Koramusu) is a match-three puzzle video game created by Jay Geertsen in 1989. Early versions of the game were ported across early computer platforms and Atari ST. In 1990, Jay Geertsen sold the rights to Sega, who ported the game to several Sega consoles.

Cover art
Designer(s)Jay Geertsen
Composer(s)Tokuhiko Uwabo (console versions)
Platform(s)Arcade, Atari ST, Sega Master System, Genesis/Mega Drive, Sega CD, Sega Game Gear, PC Engine, FM Towns, NEC PC-8801, NEC PC-9801, Sharp X68000, MSX2, Super Famicom, Game Boy Color, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Virtual Console, iOS, Palm OS, Sharp X68000, ZX Spectrum
Mega Drive
  • NA: June 29, 1990
  • JP: June 30, 1990
  • EU: July 9, 1990
Game Gear
  • JP: October 6, 1990
  • EU: April 26, 1991
  • NA: April 26, 1991
  • JP: December 25, 1990
PC Engine
  • JP: March 29, 1991
Sharp X68000
Palm OS
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer
DisplayRaster, standard resolution (320X224) 32 Colors


Columns was one of the many SameGame/Tetris-like tile-matching puzzle games to appear after its great success in the late 1980s.[2] The area of play is enclosed within 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. After a column lands, if three or more of the same symbols are connected in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line, those symbols disappear. The pile of columns then settles under gravity. If this resettlement causes three or more other symbols to align, they too disappear and the cycle repeats. Occasionally, a special column with a multicolor Magic Jewel appears. 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, which ends the game. Players can score up to 99,999 points.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Ports, sequels, and clonesEdit

Columns was the first pack-in game for the Sega Game Gear. This version was slightly different from the Sega Genesis 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 Genesis 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 let the player change the jewels to fruit, squares, dice, or card shapes (clubs, diamonds, spades).

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, Genesis, Sega 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. A Super Famicom version was released in Japan via the Nintendo Power service.[3] 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.[citation needed]

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.[4] Most recently the game was ported to iOS by Sega.[citation needed]

Columns has also been cloned many times across different platforms:

Title Platform Release date Developer Publisher Notes
Coloris Amiga 1990 Signum Victoriae Avesoft
Magic Jewelry NES Hwang Shinwei RCM Group The title is the best known of all its clones, and was released on unlicensed Famicom multicarts.
Columns ZX Spectrum 1991 Piter Ltd. Piter Ltd.
Magic Jewelry II NES Hwang Shinwei RCM Group With the addition of new features, it's the sequel of Magic Jewelry.
Jewelbox Macintosh 1992 Rodney and Brenda Jacks Varcon Systems
BREF Columns IOS, Android 2013 Mumblecore Mumblecore
Magic Jewelry 3 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.
Molums 2018 Antonelli Francisco Wisefox clone with modern graphics, beautiful backgrounds and great music.
Yahoo! Towers Java 1999/2000 Yahoo! Games Yahoo! Games This clone allows up to eight players to compete against each other.


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"[5] and "Lathesis" (sic[6]), other "Moirai".

Reception and legacyEdit

Review scores
GameProSMS: 18/25[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."[9] Mega placed the game at number 34 in their "Top Mega Drive Games of All Time".[10]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "The Maturation of Computer Entertainment: Warming The Global Village". Computer Gaming World. 1990-07-08. p. 11. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  3. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2004-04-06. Retrieved 2004-04-06.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ Parish, Jeremy (2006-10-31). "Wii Virtual Console Lineup Unveiled". Retrieved 2006-11-01.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Lang, Chip (December 1990). "Sega ProView: Columns" (PDF). GamePro. p. 136.
  8. ^ MegaTech rating, EMAP, issue 5, page 78, May 1992
  9. ^ Rubenstein, Glenn (January 1993). "At the Controls". Wizard. Wizard Entertainment (17): 21–24.
  10. ^ Mega magazine issue 1, page 76, Future Publishing, Oct 1992

External linksEdit