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Old 09-30-2009, 11:46 PM
Big Albie Big Albie is offline
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Default Review: Mr. Mahjong delivers one of the best mahjong experiences on the platform



The iTunes store has a number of mahjong games most of which are not very memorable or even fun. Admittedly, it’s difficult to put an entertaining spin on a game that by now isn’t very original. But, Mr. Mahjong may be just the ticket for both fans and non-fans of the game. While delivering the challenging gameplay of this ancient game, the devs also created a lighthearted feel by incorporating elements that make it a standout.

The MJ games on the platform aren’t the traditional Chinese game which is more intricate and commonly played by elder Asians and Jewish women. This mahjong focuses on making matches and clearing the board. Of course, rules abound which make the task much more difficult. Mr. Mahjong is all about the experience, and for the most part, the game does a wonderful creating that setting.

Mr. MJ brings with him 100 layouts and 4 tilesets most of which need to be unlocked. The layouts are presented in 4 level packs, and I have to say the variety in layouts is one the game’s biggest selling points. The layouts can come in the form of shapes resembling zodiac symbols, numbers, food, weather, landscapes, and even traffic signs among others. You can also scroll through unlocked levels to view other layouts. While you can purchase additional packs, most players will find the included layouts more than sufficient.

Visually, the game offers vibrant colors with high-resolution backgrounds and graphics complemented by soothing music tracks. Think of Mr. MJ as your sidekick guiding you through the different layouts, and while this is gimmicky, it works. Mr. MJ reminds me of Sponge Bob Square Pants, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re distant cousins. The game can also be played in portrait and landscape modes, allows you to play your own music, and convenient auto saves progress.

The game involves clearing the board of tiles, and the general rule is any tile that has a left or right border free is fair game unless another tile is lying over any part of it. While there is no time limit, the faster you clear a board, the more points and coins you collect. The coins are useful for buying numerous perks that you’ll find useful as you progress through the different layouts.

In addition, a Fever gauge is gradually charged with every pair you solve. Once you reach Fever mode, all matches are worth double points. Part of the challenge of the game is that you don’t receive any perks to start. Everything must be earned which requires a bit of patience and a bit of luck since many times, games will end when you run out of moves.

Having said that, what differentiates Mr. MJ from other games of this type is the coin and shop system. Coins collected can be used to buy perks and power ups.

Joker—allows you to skip a layout when you’re stuck
Undo—allows you to undo a previous move
Shuffle—reshuffles the remaining tiles
Tiles—unlocks new tilesets
Highlight—highlights selectable pairs
Hint—shows a matching pair
Music—unlocks new music soundtracks

If that wasn’t enough, Mr. MJ also brings along an achievement system that will recognize you for completing layouts in a level pack, number of coins earned, unlocking certain items, and scoring milestones.

Often what you find with other mahjong games is cluttered interfaces or visuals that tend to be bland. With Mr. MJ, the interface is one of the best I’ve seen in terms of elegant design with the power meters and timer located down the left side of the screen. You can pan the screen by dragging with your finger, and zoom via pinch. Both are useful for those who require a closer look.

In terms of gameplay, Mr. MJ easily provides hours of challenging play. As I mentioned, the game requires sharp eyes, a good degree of planning, and a bit of luck. Unlike other games in this category, Mr. MJ doesn’t provide too many opportunities to skate your way through the game. In fact, you’ll experience plenty of frustration in running out of matching pairs or other tiles that prevent further matches. One strategy is to purchase a shuffle power up as soon as you can afford one since this will re-shuffle the tiles.

When it comes to variety, challenging gameplay, and elegant design, Mr. Mahjong is easily one of the best mahjong games on the platform. With a number of different elements including the shop and achievements, puzzlers should find Mr. Mahjong an enjoyable sidekick when Sponge Bob just won’t do.

Albie Meter: 5 Stars (easily one of the best mahjong games on the platform; a ton of levels within a well-designed interface; shop and achievement system are innovative touches that further the re-play value)

 

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