Game Review: Mahjong Gold (PS Vita)

My wife and I enjoy playing mahjong quite a bit. She’s Japanese, and early on in our relationship, she taught me how to play this centuries-old Asian gem of a game. So, what can “Mahjong Gold” from 8Floor ltd. offer that hasn’t been done before on a game so classic? Let’s find out.

As I mentioned, mahjong can be played in a huge myriad of ways: you can play it in person, you can play it online at mahjong 88 (which has the added bonus of being able to do some real-life gambling), you can play it on a phone app (this game is a port of a mobile game, by the way), or you can play it on your Vita. Regardless of how you choose to play, though, you’ll be faced with the same basic task: match two tiles to remove them from the board. The tiles are arranged in such a way that some obscure others, and only tiles that are unencumbered from either left, right or on top are able to be taken from the board. This has been the formula for millennia.  So, what does “Mahjong Gold” bring to the table?

First off, the pirate theme. Though you wouldn’t first associate pirates with mahjong, the fact is that pirates traveled a lot, and I’m sure some picked up mahjong along the way. Plus, any good sea captain worth their salt will have enough free time with a damsel in distress to play a board or two. And the presentation is actually great: the graphics are fantastic, and the music is soothing and beautiful – with a definite Asian vibe throughout.

The biggest changes implemented come in the gameplay, though.

First, there’s a “tiered tile” system, in which you have the regular tiles that have always existed, and silver and gold tiles. These are special tiles (though they have the same face value as other tiles and can therefore be matched with regular tiles) grant you special bonuses: the silver tiles reset your “shuffle bonus” counter (you only get one re-shuffle per board), and the gold tiles are actually required to finish the level. This adds an extra level of strategy, because if you can clear all the gold tiles from the board, you needn’t bother with the remaining regular tiles, as they’ll simply be swept away.

The new gameplay mechanics add depth and variety to a timeless classic.

Then, there’s the timer and, more importantly, the points multiplier: if you are able to match and clear tiles in quick succession, you’re given multipliers, which, as the name implies, multiply the points that you get. There is a three-star system to the score you get at the end of each board (as is the way with many modern games), and whether you get one, two or three stars depends on how many points you’ve got… and believe me, it’s impossible to get two or three stars without being really, really quick at clearing the tiles. It makes for a nice challenge and gets your heart pumping in a game that is usually very calm.

There’s also tons of boards, so at $5 this game is really, really good value for fans of mahjong, who’ll not only get a lot of content, but the added gameplay mechanics that really do improve (or at least change) a beloved, classic board game.

There’s really a lot of content here, so your bucks really do stretch out, particularly if you chase three-star ratings on all boards.

What’s not to like, then? Well, the fact that this is a game that can only be controlled via the touchscreen is a bit annoying. It makes sense for the fast-paced action while actually playing, but it seems a bit lazy to not have implemented face-button controls for navigating around the interface. Also, because the boards are bigger than the Vita’s screen, you have to scroll sometimes to see the tiles that might match. This makes the task of matching tiles fast more difficult than it needs to be, and complicates getting the extra couple of stars in each level.

That said, though, for $5 you can’t really go wrong with “Mahjong Gold”: there’s tons of content and the new mechanics add depth and dimension to an ages-old classic. The clunky direct-from-mobile implementation and the scrolling notwithstanding, if you’re set on playing mahjong on your Vita, or on the go in general, you can do much worse than “Mahjong Gold”. 

At a glance:

  • Title: Mahjong Gold
  • Publisher: 8Floor ltd
  • System: PS Vita
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: TBC
  • Cross Play: TBC
  • Online Multiplayer: No
  • Local Multiplayer: No
  • PlayStation TV Compatible: Yes

Vita Player Rating - 07

 

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