Mahjongg Artifacts, a PSP Mini Game Review

The Hype:

A prequel to Mahjongg Artifacts: Chapter 2, the Story Mode of Mahjongg Artifacts introduces players to the start of the adventure through graphic comic scenes. As players explore five ancient cultures and master more and more complicated Mahjongg layouts, they will uncover lost relics as well as special tiles that will help them in their quest. The Classic mode of the game will allow players to choose which layouts and tile sets they want to complete, while Endless Mode constantly produces a never-ending arrangement of tiles, which will provide a limitless challenge.

The Reality:
As I mentioned at the start, Mahjongg games have been around seemingly forever on handheld devices, and I’ve been playing them since the old Newton Messagepad days. For the majority of Mahjongg games on handheld devices, there are issues with visibility, proper portrayal of depth, and so on. Dealing with that issue is critical.

It is interesting to note that my first review copy was actually ‘Chapter 2’, which was one of the first PSP Minis released last October. I had never played so it was a while before I noticed the difference, and actually what clued me in was when I went to the iTunes App Store to buy the games for my iPad I saw two versions – one from last October and the new one. G5 games was very quick to get a review code for the new PSP Mini release, and I’ve been enjoying it immensely.

But doesn’t that mean that I liked playing Mahjongg Artifacts enough that I willingly went out and spent $10 buying it for the iPad. Exactly!

OK, I’ve come this far assuming you know what a Mahjongg game IS – so let me explain a bit just to be clear. As a Mahjongg game starts, an assortment of tiles are spread out on the screen in a nice stacking pattern (I can only imagine setting these up by hand!). The tiles are distributed randomly, and the object in general is to clear the board by matching tiles. However, you need to ‘unblock’ some tiles to reach them, which can be very challenging.

Mahjongg Artifacts varies this in a couple of ways. First, the goal if each board is to match the two ‘golden tiles’, which can sometimes be possible before clearing the rest of the tiles. When this presents itself you are faced with a choice: do I clear everything away to maximize the score or minimize my time to maximize the score. Yeah – it is a trade-off like anything else.

One thing to help you is the ability to reshuffle. As you progress and do well you get ‘reshuffle orbs’ that allow you to reshuffle the remaining tiles if you don’t like the layout. Of course, you can also get to the point of having no available moves and need to either reshuffle or restart the board, but it is nice to have the option. I’m a completist and like my board completely clear, even if doing it more quickly and not reshuffling would have gotten me more points!

I played Mahjongg Artifacts on my PSP Go, and at times the small screen was an issue with visibility on some of the larger layouts. Fortunately the game offers some handy tools. In general I’d hit the L and R triggers for ‘auto-zoom’, which maximizes your view and keeps zooming as you clear more and more areas. But when you find seeing details challenging, you can use the L trigger to zoom in and the R trigger to zoom out. It doesn’t replace the huge view of the iPad, but it is an amazingly simple way to alleviate the most common issue of Mahjongg on a small screen!

The story mode intersperses the puzzles with comic panels telling the story of your adventure through a wide array of global locations. It is an interesting tale that isn’t overly deep of complex, but serves as a nice connection between all of the elements of the game, and also gives context to the stunning amount of tile and background variety.

Once you finish the story – and the story mode alone offers tons of content fot a $5 PSP Mini – you can enter Classic mode which is just puzzle after puzzle with 100 layouts, 5 tile sets and 27 backgrounds. Finally there is Endless mode, which has you choose tiles and background and then just dumps a stack of tiles on the screen which go on … well, forever!

I only have two complaints, and they are pretty minor: first, visualization can still be a pain even with the zooming. Second, because you are moving around using the arrows on an irregular grid, sometimes getting where you want to go can be a pain. Again, nothing major, just a hassle.

Mahjongg Artifacts offers tons of value in a $5 PSP Mini, with a huge story mode, and endless gameplay through either the Classic or Endless modes. The variety of tiles, backgrounds, layouts and even the background music make for an excellent puzzle gaming experience that goes far beyond what you’d expect in a simple tile-based puzzle game of this type.

Where to Buy: Playstation Store

Price: $4.99

What I Like:
+ Story is integrated in a way that adds to the overall experience.
+ Tons of content between story, classic and endless modes.
+ Overall presentation is strong – story, tiles, backgrounds and music all integrate!
+ Zoom feature is best ever on a handheld.

What Needs Improvement:
– The zooming can still leave you with less than optimal visibility
– Getting where you want to go can be confusing.

Source: Review code provided by publisher

Categories: Gaming, Reviews


3 replies

  1. PSP Mini Game Review: Mahjongg Artifacts


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