Columns (コラムス) (also called Jewels) is a video game with many similarities to Tetris. It was first created in 1989 by Jay Geertsen (not Geertson, as he is erroneously credited in the Windows port of HP on the X Window System). Nathan Meyers ported it to DOS, Chris Christensen to Macintosh. John Rotenstein created an early Windows version based on Christensen's Macintosh port. Another early port is to Atari ST, for the high resolution monochrome monitor. In 1990 Jay Geertsen sold the rights to Sega, where it was ported to several Sega consoles.
The game takes place inside a tall, rectangular playing area, as in Tetris. 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".
Whilst 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 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.
Like Tetris, 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 symbols.
The Game Gear version was notably different from the Genesis version.
- It had different music, sounding more like a flute or woodwind, especially in Lachesis.
- 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.
- A feature was available to change the jewels to fruit, squares, dice, or card shapes (clubs, diamonds, spades).
Other game modes
Some ports of the game offer alternate game modes. These include:
Flash columns: The player must mine their way through a set number of lines to get to a flashing jewel at the bottom.
Doubles: Where two players work together in the same well.
Time trial: Three minutes to get the highest score.
Ports and sequels
Many sequels and spinoffs were produced: Columns II: The Voyage Through Time (arcade), Columns III: Revenge of Columns (Genesis/Mega Drive), Columns '97 (Arcade and Saturn), Sakura Taisen Hanagumi Taisen Columns 1 and 2 (Saturn and Dreamcast), and many compilations and re-releases (Columns Arcade Collection on the Saturn, Sega Ages vol 07: Columns on the PS2) as well. Because Columns was made by Sega, versions were made available on the Sega Master System, Mega Drive/Genesis, Sega CD, Game Gear, Saturn, and Dreamcast. Additional versions of the game have also been made available on TurboGrafx-16, Game Boy Advance, and PlayStation 2. The Game Boy Color version was specifically called Columns GB: Osamu Tezuka Characters. It featured many of his characters such as Kimba and Astroboy and also featured slightly less known characters such as Unico.
As with Tetris, Columns has been cloned many times on different computers. There was an Amiga clone, released by Avisoft, called Coloris. There is also an online Java game heavily based on it called Yahoo! towers, which allows up to eight players to compete against each other. An unofficial ZX Spectrum version was made by Russian coders Piter in 1991 The Pelican VG Pocket offers a clone called "Jewel Master" that adds the ability to rotate columns horizontally like Super Columns.
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 Sega Genesis Collection for the PlayStation Portable. On December 4, 2006 Columns 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. Most recently the game was ported to the iPhone 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 reprogrammed 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.
Jewelpet: The Glittering Magical Jewel Box (ジュエルペット キラキラ魔法の宝石箱 Juerupetto: Kirakira Mahō no Hōseki-bako ), a arcade game based on the Jewelpet franchise can be considered a spiritual sequel to the series as it has the same gameplay as Columns.
Tokuhiko Uwabo composed the music for Columns. One of the most recognizable songs in Columns is called Clotho, presumably after the Greek Moira of the same name, related to the Greek flavor of some of the game's art. The other main songs include Atropos and Lathesis, other Moirae.