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.
Cub3d also has a versus mode that uses your 3DS’ download feature to allow you to play the game with nearby friends. This mode works extremely well, and the fact that you only need a single game card is a huge benefit, as you can play Mahjong with people who might not know much about the game. For extra fun, you can also enable trick tiles that will handicap your opponent. These trick tiles include a blindness title that makes all your opponent’s tiles gray, an earthquake title that shakes your opponent’s cube, and a hint mode that gives you 5 freebies in a row. These elements make the competitive mode a must to try out; they’re an absolute blast to play with a friend.
Mahjong Cub3d also has some great production values. Though you wouldn’t expect a puzzle game to harness the true visual capabilities of the 3DS, Cub3d does an excellent job. The background is constantly moving and looks like a vortex, while the puzzle itself pops out from the screen. The 3D isn’t jarring and works perfectly with the game content. The only mode where the 3D doesn’t enhance the overall experience is the Classic mode; the playable surface is a little bit big and requires too much scrolling to be enjoyable in 3D. Though the graphics themselves aren’t terribly complex, they get the job done and work perfectly in the context of the game.
Sound in the game is minimal but inoffensive. The background music is varied enough to not get repetitive unless you are going on a Mahjong binge, in which case you may want to turn down the volume after awhile. Sound in the game also features a decent amount of stock sound effects, which are also inoffensive. Though nothing really stands out in the audio department, it isn’t horrible either, and seems about par for the course for a puzzler.
Mahjong definitely isn’t the most popular puzzle game out there, but Cub3d makes it feel modern and relevant. Simply put, if you are a puzzle fan, you’ll enjoy Cub3d. It has plenty of modes, a great multiplayer component, and presents enough challenge for hardcore puzzlers, but has enough accessibility for those who are looking for something with a bit more casual appeal. If you’re done with Tetris and are looking for something a bit different, Mahjong Cub3d will fit the bill nicely and give you plenty of hours of fun and challenging gameplay.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.3 Graphics
3D visuals look great and create both depth and “pop.” 4.0 Control
Button-based controls are simple and work well. 2.6 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Background music and sound effects are neither outstanding nor poor. 4.0 Play Value
With 60 cube puzzles, 20 classic puzzles, and a great multiplayer mode, there’s plenty of content to play through. 3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|