Not long ago I reviewed the recently released Mahjongg Artifacts, which was a sequel to one of the earliest PSP Minis, Mahjongg Artifacts Chapter 2. Recently Sony announced that more than 1 million PSP Minis had been downloaded worldwide … and guess what game was #8 on the ‘top ten most popular’ list? That’s right – Mahjongg Artifacts Chapter 2! So to celebrate that achievement the kind folks at G5 have provided us a review copy of their hit game.
Mahjongg Artifacts: Chapter 2 is one of the most popular mahjong games on PC now available on PSP Minis. Pair up tiles to dismantle hundreds of layouts. Gather pearls for purchasing special powers, utilize a selection of ground-breaking powerups, earn trophies, and enjoy the game’s beautiful graphics and rich audio. There’s more than enough tile-matching action in Mahjongg Artifacts 2 to keep you tapping the screen for months!
– Epic Quest Mode
– Additional 99 levels in Classic Mode
– Thrilling Endless Mode
– Five Tile Sets and Numerous Backgrounds
– Ground-breaking Powerups
– Shuffle, Hint, Undo, Show Locked Tiles
– Gorgeous graphics and rich audio
In the review for the recent release, I mention that the code I got first was actually for ‘Chapter 2’, and since I hadn’t played either before it took a bit for me to realize the error As I mentioned 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. Which also indicated that I liked playing Mahjongg Artifacts enough that I willingly went out and spent $10 buying it for the iPad. Exactly!
To be clear, the differences between the two games are fairly subtle, so the majority of the review is fairly similar as well. Later on I will specifically differentiate the two games.
As a reminder of what a Mahjongg game IS, 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 completest 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 for 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.
As I mentioned, there are some subtle differences between the recently released Mahjongg Artifacts and this game – and it makes things confusing. Although they were released Chapter 2 first on the PSP, as actual games this game was a later release. That means that Chapter 2 has more interesting power-up tiles, a more interesting comic-book story to accompany the tile-matching, and more intricately designed sets of tiles (which is both good AND bad).
On the other hand, since Chapter 2 was G5’s first PSP Mini, it shows some signs of still being a bit rough around the edges in terms of overall polish, from transitions and reactions to actually not explaining what some of the special tiles do! These are all minor issues that simply show that over the last several months G5 has gotten better and better at putting together PSP Minis.
Mahjongg Artifacts Chapter 2 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.
Of course, the question is … which one to buy? If you really love these games I say grab both! They are pretty cheap – and you could even get one on the iPad and the other on the PSP to have it with you all the time. Otherwise I would honestly say I preferred Chapter 2 due to the better story and special tiles. But ultimately you can’t go wrong with either one.
Where to Buy: Playstation Store
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.
– Special tiles aren’t explained
– Some graphical glitches
Source: Review code provided by publisher