Mahjongg Artifact 2 HD

8.0 Overall Score

Written by on April 15, 2010 in

Mystery, intrigue and… Mahjongg? Does this classic game from China hold the secrets to a god-like being who is preaching against sin and the unfortunate using nothing more than his holy beam of light? Probably not… but that doesn’t make playing this sequel to Mahjongg Artifact from Shape Games and distributed by G5 Entertainment any less fun. Continuing with the same game play (and music, and generally the same game), we now get it in HD for our iPad. (HD normally stands for High Definition, but the iPad screen only goes to 1024×768 while your standard HD is considered to be 1920×1080. So for this game, I’m going to say HD stands for Hidden…. something that starts with D. We’ll figure it out later.)

Like many titles in the “classic game created about a billion years ago and given a story that appeals to modern audiences” genre, Mahjongg Artifact 2 is broken down into a set of stages, each taking place in a different part of the world – namely China, India and other nearby destinations. Upon completion of a stage, you are rewarded with the next page in a comic-book story about the hero of the first game, Marc – who has changed the spelling of his name from Mark in the first game – who has put someone in a coma. The police find our heroine and take her to the victim where she immediately decides going to China is going to be the quickest way to find Marc. We then begin our fantastical journey across the world, following Marc’s path of unholy saving and destruction, in an effort to find where he has gone and what has become of him. The comic-book pages are very short and don’t reveal a whole lot, however they are enough to keep me wondering what will happen next.

One thing to keep in mind is that Marc is on what I would best call a mission from god. I don’t think this much ravaging destruction upon the Eastern world has occurred since the bible was originally penned and god was in his Blue period, smiting anything that sneezed. I came across a page in the story that initially comes across as rather preachy. A man is talking to our hero and tells her, “But then gambling and fornication became all the rage.”, with images that look like they are straight out of Dawn of the Dead. To me, this comes across as saying that sin will turn you into a mindless zombie seeking a pair of dice to roll across a naked women in a new gambling game called Double Zeroes… but then, I’m a man who likes his sin. It wasn’t until later in the game that I realized this was not exactly preachy – as Marc (aka God, The Allmighty, the Great Green Arkleseizure) is also responding to droughts in villages by obliterating them with a flood.

Ok, so the story is actually pretty cool. I wouldn’t mind seeing this plot extended to something like an RPG, or even a Michael Bay film (I can see the village flooding sequence now – there will be explosions). But what about the gameplay? For those who don’t know Mahjongg, the premise is, like most great games, deceptively simple. You are supplied with a game board consisting of elegantly stacked tiles, each with an image or some Kanji on them. You then must find a matching pair of tiles that are in a unlocked state (based on being on the top of stacks and without other surrounding tiles), remove them from the stack, and set them aside. The history and overall rules and details of the game are rather exciting, but are beyond the scope of this review. Here is a Wikipedia link about Mahjongg if you want to know everything about the game: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahjongg

This digital reincarnation of the classic tile-game has a visually appealing interface that is quite similar to the interface in the original Mahjongg Artifacts. (Wait… did I put an s on the end of that? So did our friends at Shape Games. The S was for some reason removed from the title to the sequel. I’m guessing Marc obliterated it with fire). The game interface presents a series of buttons – all of which do nothing without magical green pearls – and a pearl jar to store… well… pearls. The first of our Pearl Powered Pushing Mechanisms (or ‘buttons’) will rearrange all of the tiles, which is very useful for when you find yourself stuck. There is almost always a match available in the tiles on the board, just not always in the currently unlocked tiles. Next is a hint button, which will point out matches and available special tiles. Third and last is a undo button, which will return the previously matched set of tiles to where they originated on the board – which with enough pearls, you can basically go back in time using the undo button, as there is no end to how far back you can go.

The gameplay is fun and rewarding with nice visuals and sounds whenever you make a match. Each area of the game – China, India, etc. – has their own set of Mahjongg tiles and stage background imagery, keeping the visuals unique and striking. However, the music is exactly the same for every single stage in the game – and it is the exact same music from every single stage in the original game. In fact, almost the entire soundtrack from the original game is back. The lack of unique songs I found a little frustrating, as listening to the same puzzle-stage track over and over and over again was like when my cat wants fed. The first 35 meows are cute, but by the 700th meow, I’m staring at him and saying “You just ate! You don’t get fed again for another 4 hours! That’s what you get for eating it so fast.”. It is also worth mentioning that this specific cat really likes the iPad, though he did not seem too interested in Mahjongg Artifact 2.

Unique to this game that does not exist in actual Mahjongg are special tiles. One tile will swap the position of itself and another on the board. There is another one that will add a pearl to any tile on the board, allowing you to earn that pearl once the tile has been matched. Overall there are a decent variety of these and they really do help to add an additional strategy component to the game. However, many of these tiles you only ever see once – or at least they didn’t appear multiple times for me. For example, the Pearl tile was only in one, maybe two stages. The first stage also acts as the tutorial stage, however it crams a lot of data in your face right away. Immediately you are introduced to all game components and a large number of these special tiles, making the first stage actually a little boring as I wanted to play, and slowly learn what everything did. The next few stages do make an effort to keep teaching you about special tiles, however this is gone later on in the game, and I was faced with new tiles with no clue of what they did until I used them. A nice effort on training the player to play, but only a 5/10 stars on that part of the game.

The only other major complaint I had about this game was some portions of the interface. There are times I can tap through things that I don’t feel like I should be able to (like when being awarded artifacts, I can click through the reward screen to see something else, and when I close that I’m returned to the reward screen). Then there is the Artifacts screen, which essentially shows your progress through the game. Tapping certain artifacts will show you those comic-book story pages again, and tapping other artifacts will display how you won them – which are essentially trophies. This is a very important screen to the game, and no matter how I tap, touch, fondle, ask politely or lick my iPad and the game’s interface, the only time this screen comes up is after you complete a stage, meaning there is no quick way to show off your progress to your friends.

My final verdict? If you like puzzle games – especially the kinds that you can just play a stage or two then put down and come back to it later – then this game is for you. It is certainly worth the $4.99 price tag in the iPad’s App Store. It would be in the developer’s favor I believe to allow access to the Artifacts screen from anywhere within the game, and also to add in some more music, possibly a song per game area, and to address some of the tutorial problems.

Hrm… we never did come up with a good word for D, did we. I know! Distraction. Hidden Distraction, which is what Mahjongg Artifact 2 HD is. I started playing the game, and a full hour passed and I didn’t even know it. The game is a very well polished hidden distraction for your potentially otherwise mundane day.

Now, I am off to find some more sin to enjoy, providing Marc and his beam of holy death-fire doesn’t find me first.

Married Gamers Grade: B-

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Author: Dave Calabrese View all posts by
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Dave has always looked towards creative mediums as a way to showcase untold stories and to entertain others. From a young age, Dave would spend hours in his family's home creating home-made board games and writing stories. His father worked in the game industry, which allowed Dave the early insight on another direction he could take his creative inspirations in. He eventually found a job in the game industry, and seven years later had a stack of published games under his belt and a number of award winning titles to bulletpoint his resume with. Dave continues to pave the way to the future of the games industry by telling stories and entertaining through interactive mediums which will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you come back for more.

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