Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine is a Puyo Pop clone with a Sonic skin. Dr. Robotnik is mechanizing the peaceful people of Beanville, and it’s up to you, player, to defeat the bad doctor and his robotic minions in a series of head-to-head puzzle challenges. Triumph, and the beans will be free to roam around and be joyful little loco roco rejects; fail, and Dr. Robotnik will utilize his new robo beans to conquer Mobius.
Feel like something is missing? That’s right, Sonic the Hedgehog is nowhere to be seen. Sonic, Tails, and Charmy Bee are all completely absent from this adventure. Dr. Robotnik gets the title, and Sonic doesn’t get so much as a chili dog.
And I think that’s a good thing.
Villains have a tendency to be more interesting than their heroic rivals. Dr. Robotnik is a mad scientist with an IQ of 300, a grandfather that tried to blow up the moon, and a revolutionary method of converting useless bunnies into robotic abominations. He’s dedicated to his twin goals of conquering the world and maybe building a shway theme park. Despite failing over and over again, Robotnik soldiers on, and doesn’t let a little thing like having his Egg Fortress obliterated get him down. Sonic the Hedgehog… likes to run fast.
And this happens in a lot of videogames, to the point that I’m now going to pit classic videogame heroes and villains against each other in a battle for supremacy (or at least top billing).
Mario and Bowser would be the obvious starting point… but that already seems kind of unfair. Mario is, essentially, a charismatic, well-liked soldier. Bowser is menacing toads again! Somebody call the one and only guy that ever seems to curb that dreadful dinosaur. On the other side of the aisle, though, you have Bowser, who is the king of a very eclectic kingdom. Peach rules a kingdom of funguys that are virtually indistinguishable from each other, while Bowsie corrals a mix of chestnuts, beetles, cacti, turtles (both bipedal and quadrupedal), and the occasional homicidal sun. And he somehow commands all those creatures to literally die for his cause. Peach can barely get her toads to venture outside the castle walls, and even her second best soldier is more likely to cower than conquer. Mario jumps, Bowser rules.
To be clear, I’m not saying Bowser is a good guy. He’s a very violent fire-breathing turtle monster, and his “grab ‘em by the Peach” policy should only be derided. But when you consider what goes into the average Bowser plan versus a Mario plan (run, jump, repeat), Bowser undoubtedly leads the more interesting life. But does Bowser get anything other than the occasional tennis match or RPG cameo? No! Meanwhile, Mario is munching on mushrooms on his 12,000th adventure. That mustache has to rescue… I don’t know… have we saved Candy Land, yet?
And this reminds me of another grand conqueror, Ganon, and I guess that damn Link kid, too. Ganon (give or take a dorf) must have the absolute worst luck. At this point in Zelda mythology, we know that Ganon is the reincarnation of a gigantic, malevolent demon that once threatened the very gods of Hyrule. It’s kind of a shame, then, that he’s routinely routed by a kid that herds cows. Ganon comes from an oppressed people, wants nothing but, ya know, water and other basic resources for his thirsty family, but is still turned away at the gate because a precocious preteen princess decided to tell everybody about some bad dream. He tries to make alliances with a shady sister kingdom, and his calls just keep going to voicemail until some damn jester picks up. Poor ginger tries to revive an entire mystical kingdom, and he gets a divinely-mandated sword in his forehead for his troubles. Link, meanwhile, seems to continually luck into the most powerful relics on the face of the Earth (“Gee, nice flute you got there, you say it controls all of time and space?”), and lays claim to these holy relics because… he’s courageous? Ya know, I’m pretty sure I could successfully poke some giant worm in the butt with a sword if the alternative meant death or falling off a tower. That should only merit The Triforce of Basic Survival, not Courage. Ganon fights for the good of suppressed others everywhere; Link usually only has one brunette in mind.
Speaking of generational heroes battling an immortal dictator, Dracula already has the title in Japan’s version of “Castlevania”, so I think he’s getting his due.
Dr. Wily, now there’s a guy who should get top billing. Screw “Mega Man” “Rock Man” or “Rainbow Man”, the true title of that franchise should be something along the lines of “Dr. Wily’s Funhouse (featuring some robot boy)”. Raise your hands if you wanted to be Dr. Wily as a kid. Thought never crossed your mind? Okay, but did you ever create your own robot masters? Design your own levels or weapons for Mega Man? Guess what! That’s Dr. Wily’s job! Dr. Light built one adaptable fighting robot, and then Dr. Wily built six death mazes and an entire castle to fight back. And then another eight levels, robot masters, and a castle. And then again! And again! Sometimes he built entire “dummy” castles just to screw with Rock-for-Brains! And when he ran out of ideas, he kidnapped another scientist so Mega Man could have even more robots to fight. And there was a soccer tournament somewhere in there! That is some insane dedication to his craft. Maybe mad. Obviously they can’t all be winners (Stone Man? Really?), but every once in a while you get a robot master choo choo or snake, and it all works out. Mega Man knows one big thing, but Dr. Wily knows many things, including how to build a fortress in the shape of a giant skull.
But I guess now we’re talking about Hedgehogs again. Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine might not be the “The Adventures of Eggman”, but it is at least a chance for the mad scientist to shine outside of that
rodent eulipotyphla’s limelight. Maybe we’ll see more Eggman times in the future, but for now, we must be content with one measly villain owning a puzzle game. We’ll get that hedgehog next time.
FGC #197 Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine
- System: Sega Genesis, Game Gear, and a menagerie of rereleases on later systems. Despite the assumed licensing issues, this game has no problem resurfacing every generation.
- Number of players: Two player head-to-head puzzle action. Eat your heart out, Nintendo Tetris.
- Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: It’s Puyo Pop. It’s a match-color game. It’s practically Dr. Mario. It’s also really difficult for some reason. Like, the second stage is already pretty rough with piling the garbage blocks on the player.
- So, did you beat it: Once, on one of the Sega/Sonic Mega Collections. I want to say Playstation 2 era? The final boss is Dr. Robotnik himself.
- Hey, speaking of villains headlining games, what about Shadow the Hedgehog: This blog does not recognize color swaps as real characters. You heard me, Reptile!
- Did you know? The aesthetics of this game are predominantly based on the Sonic the Hedgehog animated series. The, uh, daily one, not the one that only aired on Saturdays and was super rad because Sonic the Hedgehog was some kind of freedom fighter and there was a rabbit that was also a cyborg and I think Sonic had his own Uncle Ben. … The 90’s were a weird time to be alive.
- Would I play again: No. I’m proud of Robotnik being immortalized in the title of this Puyo Pop clone… but it’s still just Puyo Pop. So why don’t I just play that?
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Ducktales, the Wayforward version! Get ready for life to be like a hurricane! Please look forward to it!