Seller: Ambrosia Software
Requirements: iOS 3.2 or later
File Size: 22.2MB
Version Reviewed: 1.0.2
Age Rating: 4+
I’ve never owned a Mac that didn’t have some form of Mahjong on it, going all the way back to the Mac SE sitting in my basement (I really need to find a use for that sturdy little machine). And now, I’ve got Mahjong on my iPad courtesy of Ambrosia Software’s Aki Mahjong for iPad. As you’d expect from Ambrosia, it’s a tight, attractive and robust entry in a somewhat crowded field. It has to be, because it’s also one of the most expensive.
There aren’t many things that can separate one Mahjong title from another, but Ambrosia knows what they are. We’ll start with design, since it’s one of the most impressive aspects of Aki Mahjong. Although the game of Mahjong is of Chinese origins, Aki takes its inspiration from Japanese artwork and landmarks.
Behind each of the 12 main levels is a photo of a different Japanese landmark, seemingly run through a couple Photoshop filters to make it look like a painting on canvas. Whether this ends up appearing dirty or weathered to you, it’s not a bad effect. The tiles themselves have a nice ivory sheen to them, and look good sitting on top of the treated photos. The layout is pleasant and easy to view both in bright and low light conditions.
There’s an historical bent to the game, as well, as each photo is accompanied with a brief description of the landmark. That shouldn’t in any way affect your buying decision, but you can maybe write the game off as an education expense.
The music behind the gameplay is traditional, (mostly) soothing Japanese music. I found it a bit intrusive at times, but I mostly liked it. My wife, on the other hand, immediately shut it off each time she played.
The game itself features 12 main “journey” levels; completing one unlocks the next. Along with these are 25 bonus levels, for a hefty total of 37. Considering varying tile placement makes each level almost infinitely replayable, that should be enough to keep you busy for quite some time.
Hopefully, you understand by now how to play Mahjong. Each level contains numerous tiles arranged in different patterns and stacked to various heights. You remove them by matching tiles that are free from obstruction to the right or left. Clear them all, and you win.
In an unexpected way, this is much more fulfilling on the iPad than on the computer. Physically touching the screen with your finger (as opposed to clicking on a tile with your mouse cursor) just felt more like playing the real, physical game (which actually isn’t played this way, but there’s no point in getting into that).
The only real complaint I have about Aki Mahjong for the iPad is that the touch sensitivity was occasionally off. Tapping directly on a title sometimes doesn’t activate that tile, and if you tap too quickly, it registers as a double tap and zooms in on that area. This mostly isn’t a big deal until you’re almost out of time and racing to find matches (you can play in both timed and untimed modes at various difficulty levels).
A secondary complaint is that there’s no social media aspect. Being able to share your level completion times via Open Feint, Facebook or Twitter seems a natural with a game like this. And although other Mahjong games I’ve played have included the ability to change the tile appearance, I didn’t miss it here. Obviously, the game is going for a traditional design, and the included tiles fit very well. Designs different enough to make them worthwhile would likely look quite out of place.
As great as Aki Mahjong for iPad is, it’s a hard sell against all the cheaper options available. If all you want is the gameplay, you can likely save yourself a couple dollars and look elsewhere. I mean, there are people who are happy playing chess or Chinese checkers on cardboard. But if you’re the type who’ll spend the extra cash to get nice wooden or marble playing boards, consider Aki Mahjong the iPad equivalent.
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