Mahjong Journey: Quest For Tikal

5.0 Overall Score

Written by on September 27, 2010 in

Mahjong is a tile game birthed centuries ago in China that has spread across the world with several regional variants and millions of players across the globe. Mahjong Journey: Quest for Tikal, on the other hand, is an oversimplified and repetitive slog of a puzzle game for the Nintendo DS.

The sole mahjong rule variant in Mahjong Journey is Mahjong Solitaire–a rule-set that involves stacking the tiles in various configurations and then uncovering and removing the tiles by matching each with its matching suit. Mahjong Journey divides this basic formula between two modes: adventure and classic. In adventure mode the game feigns the trappings of a story with a brief comic style opening cutscene where an Indiana Jones lookalike is sent off to explore ancient Mayan sites in order to find the sixty “tiles of insight”. From there the player is presented with a map dotted with sixty locations (each representing a puzzle board) at the end of which another brief cutscene is displayed saying little more than, “hey, you did it.” Overall, the story is almost entirely pointless solely serving as a thin reason for the puzzle boards’ ascetics.

Gameplay-wise, adventure mode is the basic mahjong solitaire with the addition of special “power up” tiles such as a wild-card tile and hint tiles. After the first puzzle board, though, you’ve basically seen everything this mode has to offer. While the tiles are arranged differently in each of the sixty boards the actual gameplay stays exactly the same throughout. Add onto this the fact that the challenge in these matching puzzles is basically non-existent and adventure mode quickly becomes a dull and repetitive slog up to the very end.

The alternative classic mode does attempt to add a small amount of variety with three difficulty settings and nine game modes to choose from. Most of these modes, however, do nothing more than alter the time limits for each puzzle. For example, one grants you 10 seconds to make each match before deducting points while another shuffles the board if no match is made in 20 seconds. Through all these modes the basic gameplay remains the same.

Ascetically Mahjong Journey is a mixed bag. The Mayan inspired location backgrounds are appropriately colorful and detailed but after a few boards it becomes apparent that the images actually have no relation to the named location on the puzzle but are displayed at random with few to choose from. The game’s music follows a similar procedure choosing randomly from two or three tracks for each level. This wouldn’t be so bad if the tracks were good but the music here is more reminiscent of rejects from a Kenny G album than they are of Amazonian mood music.

By far the worst ascetic offender in Mahjong Journey, though, is in the tiles themselves. In a game based on quickly matching pictures it is essential for designs to be easily identifiable. Here the tiles are so tiny and the designs so indistinct that it can be a serious strain to the eyes simply telling a match from a miss. Furthermore, the tiny size of the tiles can make it difficult to select the desired object with the touch screen controls. Often it can take three or four taps just to select one tile.  Then if you miss when selecting its match you’ll have to select the first tile all over again.

Overall Mahjong Journey represents a missed opportunity on the part of its developers. With a little more effort (some more rule variants, tighter controls, perhaps a multiplayer mode) this could have been a good game. Instead what we have is an unpolished and dull mess that wouldn’t pass mustard as an online flash game, let alone a boxed retail product.

A copy of Mahjong Journey: Quest For Tikal was provided to The Married Gamers for review and evaluation.

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Author: Tylor Long View all posts by

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