Mahjongg Artifacts 2 a glossy approach to tile swapping

Posted: June 26, 2009 in Puzzle

Matching games are out in force for the iPhone/iPod Touch platform whether they’re the plethora of Match 3 games or the memory-type pair matching kind to name a few. The game of mahjong is a tile matching game that has been played for generations in Asia, and you’ll find several worthy ones in the iTunes store. One that is worth considering is Mahjongg Artifacts 2, originally a PC game now available on the platform. Having spent some time with this title, the game is extremely polished, contains a storyline, and offers a few special touches that make it a standout among the other mahjong titles.

When I say extremely polished, Mahjongg Artifacts is exactly that. The game has high production values throughout from the neatly laid-out menus and rich soundtrack to the stunning graphics and elegant design. This is one of the more visually stunning games and arguably the best among mahjong games. The background images with a Far East flavor could easily be vibrantly reproduced postcards, while the highly decorated tiles pop from the screen.

The game of mahjong is rather simple: match pairs of tiles to clear the board. Of course, based on the elaborate layouts and tile designs, the challenge is that matches can only be made with tiles that are free on the left or right and that no other tile covers. Mahjongg Artifacts 2 follows the same concept, and you’ll need to make matches strategically so you don’t run out of moves or need to restart a level.

Mahjongg Artifacts 2 has three game modes: Quest, Classic and Endless.

Quest is the story mode which will take you through 25 levels in search of artifacts through 5 different locations in Asia and Europe as well as an imaginary land. The storyline involves the search for a lost explorer and the recovery of artifacts. Presented through a series of comic book panels before each level, the storyline isn’t particularly strong, but it provides an additional twist to the game. Each location has its own set of tile sets. The objective is to clear enough of the board to locate two golden tiles that once matched, complete the level. Also as you make matches, you earn pearls which can be used for functions such as hints, undo moves or board shuffling. As you complete levels, a map keeps tracks of progress as does a separate board for monitoring artifact pieces collected.

Classic, which has 99 levels, and Endless offer the standard tile matching games where the objective is to clear the board. Both offer 5 differently themed tile sets and 25 different backgrounds based on the tiles sets found in Quest mode to choose from and numerous board layouts that will undoubtedly challenge you. These tile sets and backgrounds are unlocked based on progress within Quest so you won’t have access to them until then. In Endless, unlimited layers of tiles are provided so you can match to your heart’s content. The key problem with these modes is the lack of an autosave/autoresume function so that a game in progress can be saved if a call comes in or a game needs to be put on hold. This is a significant issue for some, and I hope the devs address this soon.

The game has various special touches that deserve pointing out. First off are the perks available to help you along.

Lifting—moves any tile to the top
Shuffle—shuffles all tiles
Joker—removes all tiles of a specific kind off the board
Pearl—when matched with any tile, gives additional hint, undo moves and board shuffling function
Swapper—switches the places of two tiles
Magnet—moves a tile to the place of the magnet

As mentioned previously, match the two gold tiles and you immediately move to the next level.

The second part worth highlighting is the elegant game screen. At the bottom of the screen are several icons. In the bottom left corner is a tiki statue that when tapped, zooms in and out of the tile screen. I do find this to be somewhat of a minor issue because with tiles that are small, a zoom pinch function would probably work better. However, you can still drag around the screen to the desired location. By the way, tapping a specific spot or tile will bring up a magnifying glass to zoom in on wherever you drag it. Next to the Menu button is the Eye. By tapping on the Eye, it will highlight which tiles are free to be matched. Next to that are the hints, undo moves and board shuffling buttons, which require pearls to make them work. These pearls are stored in a container located in the bottom right corner, replenishing when you make matches, and depleting when accessing the functions I mentioned.

The game also has achievements which reward you for clearing boards, the swiftness with finishing a game, and the ability to complete a game without using undo moves, hints or board reshuffling. Random achievements pop up every so often, and it would have been ideal if an achievement section had been included so the player has a clue of potential milestones.

Mahjongg Artifacts 2 is really the cream of the crop when it comes to mahjong games from the presentation to the challenging gameplay. While the storyline is a good, yet weak feature, the Asian theme is well incorporated throughout for an immersive experience.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (recommended for mahjong fans or if you’re looking for a new game that will both mentally and visually entice you; the lack of an autosave/autoresume in Classic and Endless mode is an oversight)

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