I assume the general gaming populace’s reaction would be to look at the title and say “really? Mahjong?”, but there is more than meets the eye here. Let me note that if you do not like Mahjong in any fashion, you have no business buying this game. If you do enjoy this Eastern pastime however, Creat Studios/TikGames’ Mahjong Tales will give you more ways to play it than any other game before it.
Mahjong is an ancient board game that originated in China c. 500 BC. This is Mahjong Solitaire, meaning It’s essentially an advanced form of matching, where tiles are scattered across a board on top of each other, requiring you to make certain matches to get to the bottom of the pile. Mahjong is a thinking man’s game, especially in the later levels of the Ancient Tales, but luckily if you’re completely stuck in the single player mode, you can always use a hint at the loss of points. Also, if you run out of matches, you get 3 re-shuffles (redos), so it’s much more forgiving than a lot of other games. Although some people contend Mahjong is extremely luck based, depending on the layout, luck can be either a large or small factor in relation to your success.
The main mode where Tales shines is the “Ancient Tales Mode”, which allows you to play consecutive boards in order to unlock fully narrated artwork-slideshow stories of old Chinese legends. These legends are not widely known; you may have heard of one in a History class, but unless you went out of your way to look for them, odds are you haven’t heard them before. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of the game of Mahjong, but I found myself strangely hypnotized by the promise of story progression. Even as the boards got progressively harder, I still wanted to move on to finish my current story, and unlock the next one. It’s a very unique way to get even the most burned-out of Mahjong veterans to come back and play one more time.
Motion Mode gives Mahjong a completely new twist. Instead of having to sit and think of your next move, a conveyor belt around the board pulls tiles closer and closer to a Dragon in the top right corner. If a tile gets to the Dragon; game over. It’s your job to not only stop the tiles from progressing, but clear the middle board to end the level. Creat Studios did an amazing job modernizing this mode for the current generation. There is a large handful of powerups at your disposal, from bombs that eliminate adjacent tiles, to magic wands that show all applicable matches. Every 10 seconds you may also choose one tile to “burn”, meaning you always have something to click, and never have 1 second to stop and think. It’s a frantic change to an otherwise calm and collective game, and it’s a very fresh take that I enjoyed playing for hours.
You can also play a version of Motion Mode split-screen or online with another player, adding to the game’s replay value. In this multiplayer version, both players have an identical board, and powerups are still present, but there are two conveyor belts that provide tiles. Mahjong Tales also has a mini-tutorial for people who are new to Mahjong, and an infinite mode with 100 different layouts. Once you finish the “tales” main game, and get bored of Motion Mode, Infinite play is a nice way to unwind with your favorite layout.
Even though the multiplayer mode is fun, Mahjong Tales could have done a lot more with it’s multiplayer functions, and easily added a “take turns 4-player mode” like the traditional version of it’s namesake. The main problem with Mahjong Tales is even though it does a lot to cater to Mahjong fans, it doesn’t have a lot of “wow” factor. Other than the interesting artwork in Tales Mode, the environments and graphical styles are pretty bland, and the sounds and music are at the most, passable.
Despite it’s problems, as you can clearly see, Tales has a ton of different modes to keep you satisfied even though it is at it’s core “just a Mahjong game”. It would have been nice if a more comprehensive tutorial was included, and maybe an extra mode, but all in all if you like Mahjong, you’ll love Mahjong Tales.
It doesn't do much to wow you in terms of visuals, but the artwork is satisfying.
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I feel like the cursor is a bit oversensitive at times, and if you "miss-click", you have to scroll around a lot to overcompensate. It's really only a problem in Motion Mode, however; in Tales mode you can just take your time.
The music does it's job, but you will most likely get sick of hearing the same two songs over and over.
Motion Mode is a very unique take on the game that will have you and your friends playing longer than you would think. Add in the single player tales and an infinite mode with 100 layout combinations, and you'll be playing for a long while.
Mahjong Tales doesn't pull any punches. It stays true to it's roots, but also innovates with "Action Realtime Mahjong" to create a nice package. If you loathe Mahjong, however, Motion Mode most likely won't be enough to convert you.