Mahjong: Royal Towers is a traditional Chinese puzzle game available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS Vita. I have played Mahjong games since the retro days of the Amiga and 3DO, so I was very happy to see Mahjong games make their presence felt with a game developed for the Vita.
There are six different categories of levels that are referred to as contests with each contest spanning twenty levels totalling to an amazing 120 levels! Each of the six contests has a specific name including: Tournament Field; Castle Yard; Royal Garden; Refectory; Armory; and Throne Hall with each being tied to a difficulty level ranging all the way from newbie to experienced, expert, master and champion.
The core premise of the game is the same as any other Mahjong game as you attempt to pair matching tiles together. The real puzzle element of the gameplay is provided by the traditional rule of only being able to pair matching tiles from the outer edge of any group of tiles. There are tile families, such as seasons and flowers that can appear differently from one another in their appearance by their colour but can still be paired together, which is something that you really have to keep in mind when frantically trying to search for your next matching pair of tiles. There are two additional types of tiles that consist of silver tiles and gold tiles. When silver tiles are removed from the board they will automatically restore your chip bonus, while the amount of golden tiles varies from level to level, although it is a requirement that every golden tile must be removed from the board in order for you to complete each level.
There are eight sets of tiles with a wide assortment of tile categories including: swords; royal crowns; shapes; numbers; armour; the sun and moon; flowers; and food. As each of the eight tile sets are completely unique in design, they really add another layer to the gameplay, as it means you can replay levels with different designs across all of the tiles resulting in it not just being about memorising the positioning of the matching tiles by parrot fashion and you can change the tile set at any given time on any level from the pause menu, which freshens up the gameplay even further.
There are various bonuses within the gameplay mechanics, such as tile shuffles when you have used all of the possible pairings for matching the tiles together, which needs to be recharged after use by pairing together a few tiles; alongside a skill for shading blocked tiles, while keeping available tiles brightly coloured, which is an ability that can be used throughout each level from start to finish.
There is a multiplier that becomes active once you have chained together a few quick moves to remove matching pairs of tiles from the board. The multiplier will then increase the points you earn from removing matching pairs of tiles from the board, such as a move that would have previously earned you ten points will instead earn you twenty points during the x2 multiplier.
Scrolls appear on screen when you have achieved the requirements of a trophy or a major objective within the game or even when you have ran out of matching tiles to inform you that the shuffle bonus is available and that it will be applied automatically for you to continue your progression through the level. This is a very nice touch of detail to the game, which brings authenticity as scrolls are something you would expect from ancient Chinese tradition.
The controls are simple and are purely a touch screen based configuration. The controls consist of tapping the first tile that you would like to select and then tapping the second tile that you would like to pair it with; tapping the lion icon on the bottom left of the screen to switch the skill for shading blocked tiles on or off; tapping the shuffle icon on the bottom right of the screen to change the positioning of the tiles when you believe you have exhausted all of the matching pairs of tiles to progress any further; and tapping the pause icon to the top left of the screen to pause the game to change various options, such as the tile set, sound and music on or off, viewing the help menu to read over the rules of the game and quitting or restarting the level. At any time during any level you can zoom in by moving your fingers outwards from the centre of the screen across the screen and you can zoom out by moving your fingers inwards towards the centre of the screen, alongside swiping across any area of the screen to move the focus of the screen to that particular area allowing you to navigate around the tiles while you are fully zoomed in.
The graphics showcased in Mahjong: Royal Towers provide everything that you would expect to see from a Mahjong game with colourful and detailed tile sets and backgrounds that really authenticate the experience of Mahjong.
The presentation of the game is solid with a great touch screen based user interface across various menus such as the contest menu, level selection menu and options menu, although it lacks any ability for navigation via the left and right analogue sticks, directional pad, face buttons and rear touch pad. The background of the menu screens looks very colourful and vibrant as they contain a still image in the background that represents the category of levels you have chosen.
The audio consists of the style of music that you would typically associate with a Mahjong game as it has a laid back and relaxing quality to it, which ties in with the graphics to provide an authentic Mahjong experience. There are also sound effects for when you have chosen your first tile and when you have chosen the second tile to pair it with, alongside other sound effects such as when your tile shuffle bonus has recharged and has become available to use again.
The trophy list includes thirteen trophies with nine bronze trophies, three silver trophies and one gold trophy. You may not necessarily find the trophies easy due to how difficult you may find some of the requirements for each level, such as completing a level within a certain period of time; within a certain amount of moves; earning a certain amount of points; and removing a certain amount of gold tiles, but the majority of the trophies are naturally earned through playing the game and will not require you to deviate from the objectives you have been set for each level. The first trophy you will earn will be the Armiger Cup bronze trophy for finishing the first level with three stars as the first level has much easier requirements, so this should be a pretty quick trophy lasting only a matter of minutes. Another couple of easy trophies include the Cup of Honour bronze trophy for collecting thirty crowns, which is achieved by earning between one and three crowns from your performance spread across each of the levels, so this should be easily achieved by the end of the first contest which consists of twenty levels and the Mahjong Tile silver trophy for removing 1,000 pairs of tiles, which should be completed naturally within around twenty levels.
The trophies are mostly aimed at completing all of the levels within each of the six contests and while they provide five bronze trophies and one silver trophy; they are certainly going to take a fair amount of time to complete all of the 120 levels required for those six particular trophies. The harder trophies are the Knight Cup bronze trophy for scoring 100,000 points, although that is an overall total of points and you can view your progress towards the figure from the contests menu and level selection menu, so you may be able to score enough points while attempting to complete the 120 levels and the Envoy Cup silver trophy for achieving the x5 multiplier for consistently matching pairs of tiles very quickly. I would estimate depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take around ten hours to 100% the trophy list.
There are difficulty levels by name as you can see from the contests selection menu, although the only things that can really become any harder are the requirements for achieving crowns, such as lowering the number of moves you can make within a level; increasing the points total you need to score; lowering the period of time you have to complete a level; and increasing the amount of gold tiles that you have to remove before completing the level. The point being is that this is still essentially Mahjong and if you are pretty good at spotting the matching pairs of tiles, then none of these harder requirements will feel like restrictions, so while there are technically various difficulty levels, it will really depend upon your own level of skill at playing Mahjong as to whether you feel any difference between them.
There are no online multiplayer modes or online leaderboards, which is a bit disappointing as it would have added another competitive edge to the gameplay. I could imagine there being an online battle system in which you and your online opponent are attempting to complete the level first and that you could even perhaps bet some of your points tally from the single player, whereas the online leaderboards could have had leaderboards for the best times for each level to be completed; the largest number of points to be earned for each level; the highest multiplier to be achieved for each level; and the lowest number of moves for each level to be completed within.
Mahjong games usually have a certain level of replayability and Mahjong: Royal Towers is no exception with 120 levels spread across six contests with three objectives to complete for every level providing collectable crowns to represent your degree of success, alongside eight unique tile sets that keep each level fresh every time you return to play it.
Overall, Mahjong: Royal Towers has a vast amount of content that will keep you coming back for more for quite some time and is a great game that entertains equally in short bursts and long play sessions. If you are a fan of Mahjong games, tile matching games or puzzle games, then this is easily recommendable as a must buy, especially considering the low price of only £2.39! I really hope that 8 Floor Games bring the rest of their Mahjong games from other platforms to the Vita as Mahjong: Royal Towers is extremely enjoyable and quite a delight for anyone familiar with the game of Mahjong.
At A Glance
- Title: Mahjong: Royal Towers
- Publisher: 8 Floor Games
- System: PS Vita
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: No
- Cross Play: No
- Online Multiplayer: No
- Memory Card Space Needed: 185Mb