Retro Review: Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine

coverNo Sonic, lots of villains and a heap of cute little beans. By looking at the colourful, cartoony visuals of Doctor Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine you'd be forgiven for passing it off as quick Sonic cash-in. However, this is one fiendish puzzle game that will have you returning over and over again.

Beans, Beans Everywhere!

The first Sonic-related game to not feature the Blue Blur at all, Mean Bean Machine is actually set in the world of the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog children's TV show rather than the universe of past Sonic titles. This affords the game a very different look and feel than previous Sonic games and this is not at all a bad thing. In keeping with the cartoon players are introduced to much more colourful versions of the characters they are familiar with. The evil Doctor Robotnik, every bit the cartoon villain here, is planning to turn all the citizens of Beanville into mindless robots to service his empire. Of course, this is where you come in. It's up to you to save the Beans by organising them into groups of four so that they can escape.

Mean Bean Machine uses the Puyo Puyo engine from the game of the same title. Gameplay is something of an amalgamation of Tetris and Columns. Groups of two Beans fall from the top of the screen and the player must match the Bean's colours to make a group of at least four. As the Beans fall toward the bottom of the screen the player can change the order of the beans and their arrangement from vertical to horizontal and move them across the play area.  Adding extra challenge to the game is the inclusion of “refugee” Beans, clear coloured Beans that fall into the play area if your opponent manages to clear a large chain of Beans.

At first the gameplay of Mean Bean Machine seems relatively simple; you move the Beans around the screen, organising them in the way you want, and matching colours. A few levels in, however, the Beans begin to decend at a much more rapid pace and this is where the true depth of the game begins to show through. If a group of Beans are organised horizontally and one Bean is placed upon an established pile, the other will fall away to the Beans below. Colour groups can be organised in any formation, not just simply up and across, and you have a split second to change the order of your Beans even after they have come to rest. These techniques open up a whole host of play possibilities and are invaluable in later stages of the game as Beans fall at lightning speed.

Gameplay Footage


One Bean, Two Bean

No matter if you're a solo gamer or if you play with friends, Mean Bean Machine offers a lot of reply value. The single player game is challenging but never frustrating and has that “one more go” factor that will have to playing into the wee hours of the night. Two player mode is incredibly enjoyable as both players race to clear as many Beans as possible while contending with the refugees their opponent sends forth. Mean Bean Machine is one of those games where everything will be going just how you want it when, suddenly, one small mistake will bring the whole thing crumbling down. Rather than frustrate this only makes you even more determined.

Released on the Sega's Mega Drive, Master System and Game Gear and later on the Wii's Virtual Console, Mean Bean Machine is a wonderful experience on any of the four systems. All versions offer similar play although the 8-Bit versions include Puzzle Mode. No matter which version you choose, however, the game will afford you hours of puzzle goodness. Either by yourself of with friends Doctor Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine is a game no puzzle lover should pass up. Just make sure you don't have anything important to do in the morning because chances are you'll be up all night playing.

View Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine in the RetroCollect database.

Last Updated ( 25 April 2011 )  

Joe Douglas

A lover of comics, sci-fi, fantasy and dusty old video games, Joe is a Sega man through and through. Combining his love of collecting and blue hedgehogs, Joe runs the site SonicCollectors on which he attempts to build a database of Sonic merch. He is tolerated by one cat, two dogs and his girlfriend.

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(Link to this comment) Destro 2011-04-26 08:49
This game rocks! It's by far my favourite game in the Mega Drive Ultimate collection for PS3.
(Link to this comment) Skrozzy 2011-05-02 16:37
Did enjoy playing this on the game gear whilst supposedly working.
A group of us worked our way through all the levels.
Good fun was had by all.
(Link to this comment) Sonic93 2011-09-10 05:10
I used to play this game all the time when growing up , I made it to the final level . I think I actually may of beat the Gamecube version along included in the anniversary collection.

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