This is a rather unusual 'Sonic' game. Firstly because it's actually Puyo Puyo in disguise, and secondly because although it features Sonic characters (Robotnik for example), the blue blur himself is nowhere to be seen. Our favourite belligerent scientist can no longer stand the happiness of Beanville, so he intends to use his new invention, the 'Mean Bean Steaming Machine' to transform the village's bean-shaped inhabitants into slaves.
'You' have vowed to stop the Beans from being sent to the Bean Machine. How are the Beans being chucked into the machine? By lining four or more of them in a row or otherwise. Robotnik and his trusty robot henchmen will do everything they can to link four in a row to send to the machine. You on the other hand, must link the beans to freedom.
Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine is a puzzle game much like Tetris, but is in many ways more exciting. Tetris was excellent, don't get me wrong, but it bored me. This game has defeated that sense of boredom, by replacing blocks with... beans. Cool little Beans that you have to free up on your screen. To do this you must get four of the same-colour bean in any type of combination (as long as they are all touching) - the beans will disappear. If you're really smart, you can go for combos.
There are three modes you can access on the Mega Drive version. The first is Scenario mode, where you have to battle each of Robotnik's robot henchmen until the final stage, where you fight the big bad Doctor himself for true Bean freedom. Your progress is tracked by level passwords, which is handy. The computer can be vicious depending on what difficulty (and stage) you're on.
If you or your opponent manage to successfully link four or more beans, refugee beans will appear in the opponents screen. Refugee beans will only disappear when you connect a group of beans next to them. These clear bubbles could mean the difference between winning and losing.
There is also a Versus mode, where you and a friend can battle for the Beans (how cliched...) with 'Has-Bean' (a robot bean on your side) cheering you on. This will be where dirty tactics come in, so block your mate's screen before they do the same to yours! On the Game Gear, you need a link cable in order to play Versus mode. Finally, there is Exercise mode, for those wanting to hone their bean skills to the max. You can choose to play with an empty screen (beginners stuff) or you can choose either Normal or Hard setting. Practicing on these difficulties result in part of the screen filled with Refugee beans, hence Hard difficulty.
There are significant differences in the Game Gear version. First of all the graphics are considerably crappier, but you hardly notice that within about half an hour of play. Also, exclusive to Game Gear owners is Puzzle Mode. This has you trying to accomplish certain bean-y tasks to proceed to the next 'Lesson'. Again, passwords are given out. Some of the levels are easy, but some are pure evil. Evil, evil...
This game puts a great twist on puzzle games, and makes it totally and utterly addictive! The difficulty levels will ensure that you just have to challenge the computer one last time. However, the multi-player lacks any real innovation from the main game, and can get boring quite quickly after a few goes. Aside from that, this is a now-rare puzzler that's more than worth your money. If you're a hardcore puzzle fan, that is.