|Pub: Atlus Co.|
|Release: October 11, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: N/A|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
Mahjong is an old game that you may not have heard of. We know that it was first played more than 2,500 years ago, and was popularized as a four-person game in eastern Asia. The game never really caught on in North America until a solitaire version of Mahjong was released with several of the entertainment-focused Windows platforms in the nineties. From there, Mahjong turned in to a minor hit, with online versions cropping up and gaining in popularity, though it has never become a real hit.
But now, after a few hours with the brand new Mahjong Cub3d, you might think Mahjong is the best thing you haven't been playing.
If you've never played Mahjong before, the premise is deceptively simple. Tiles with different symbols are laid out in various three-dimensional patterns, and it's your job to clear these boards by matching the tiles, two at a time. However, there's a catch: Tiles can only be matched if they are "free," meaning they are not bordered by other tiles on both sides. This creates complex gameplay, as you need to match tiles strategically to uncover hidden tiles.
The classic version of mahjong is very difficult, and can take a pretty long time per puzzle with nearly 100 tiles per structure. However, Mahjong Cub3d simplifies this formula, using a small amount of cube-shaped tiles and assembling them in simple three-dimensional structures that can be moved and rotated around the screen. Initially, this makes the game easier; you can now see tiles from the bottom and the side, making finding free tiles a breeze. However, as the structures get more and more complex, you'll have to carefully manipulate the cube in 3D space in order to succeed.
The game's challenge comes from not only figuring the right order to solve the puzzle, but also from doing it quickly. Mahjong Cub3d imposes strict time limits on each level, and if you don't solve the puzzle within the allotted time, you'll have to start all over. But going too fast will hurt you as well, as will just matching every tile pair you find, since a "no more pairs" distinction will also get you right back at the beginning.
Mahjong Cub3d's main Cube Mode has three difficulty levels, each with 20 shapes you can solve. In addition to the intrinsic difficulty of each shape, you can also ratchet up the difficulty even more by varying the tiles to create the biggest strategic challenge. The game's 60 levels offer plenty of addictive, puzzle-solving value, and are a blast to play through whether you are a Mahjong newbie or expert.
However, if you need some more content, Mahjong Cub3d has got you covered. The game has an extensive classic mode that allows you to play through ultra-hard old school levels of Mahjong Solitaire. This mode doesn't let you use the game's cool 3D mode, but if you are looking for a serious challenge, you'll find it here.