A few days ago Hexacto released another Palm port of a fun Pocket PC game. Emperor s Mahjong is essentially a matching game that requires quick thought and like chess, the ability to think a few moves into the future. Puzzle and strategy game aficionados definitely need to check this one out.
Just what exactly is Mahjong? According to dictionary.com
mah jong also mah jongg n.
A game of Chinese origin usually played by four persons with tiles resembling dominoes and bearing various designs, which are drawn and discarded until one player wins with a hand of four combinations of three tiles each and a pair of matching tiles.
[Chinese (Mandarin) m ji ng : m , spotted + ji ng , main piece in Chinese chess.]
In this case The Emperor s Mahjong is a challenging game that will keep you busy for a while. There are basic (
The goal is to collect five gems, which require the completion of twelve games each. With each game you have to make the specified number of matches within a set time period. After acquiring all gems, you face your last challenge, having to clear twelve more boards, represented by the Chinese horoscope.
There are a few challenges with any game like this. First, the pieces are small, so it can be tough on the eyes. Second, you re up against the clock, so the game requires quick movements, but you also need to be able to plan ahead, much like chess. Pecking away feverishly will not win you this game and will likely cause issues with your progress, meaning you will have to start the board over.
One of the biggest problems I had was finding a way to make sense of all the pieces. Many have numbers like dominoes, but about half have Chinese characters on them. I found it best to give them names. I took all the character pieces and thought of them as houses, with different attributes. So when I see one of the pieces, I can quickly think to myself, Okay, I need another Pi House. You ll see what I mean
There are a number of other pretty nice features to mention as well. In the single player games, you can ask for hints, which is a very helpful way to learn the game. They also allow for undo moves and re-shuffles. For the super Mahjong fan, the software even comes with an editor to make your own boards, in case you can handle the 72 that come with the game and want more.
One other thing. Before you start playing, make sure to calibrate your screen. The tiles often require precise taps, so if your digitizer is a bit off, it may make the game even harder than it needs to be!
This is a very fun and challenging game that will keep you busy for a long time. The boards are too involved to be played in the elevator on your way to work, but it s a great time killer while you wait for the doctor or for a meeting to start. I also like how they ve taken a very popular game and added a storyline to keep you involved. It would have been much easier to just give you a bunch of boards to clear and give you a happy beeping noise when complete. Hexacto delivers little bits of wisdom along the way, so while you are collecting gems, you get a fortune cookie bit of advice with every win.
TEM comes in a low res color as well as grayscale version. I tested the low res color version on a Palm Tungsten T and it looked great and ran well off of the secure digital card. Hexacto tells me that high res support is around the corner, which should make the game that much more clear and crisp looking.
Requirements: Palm OS 3.5 and higher, 4MB of RAM, 490k Color Version, 375k Grayscale Version.
Also available on Pocket PC.
Pick up a free trial version or purchase for $19.95.
A few thoughts from The Wraith –
As a total newbie to mahjong games in general, I found it remarkably easy to pick up. The rules dialog is rather vague and a little confusing, but the gameplay itself is quite easy to learn. Given the number of layouts, it also seems to be practically infinite.
My only real concern relates to screen size. An already small screen, filled with even tinier tiles, may be a problem for some users. I experienced a little bit of eyestrain–an unusual occurence for me–after playing for an extended time. Likely it’s simply an isolated incident, but those more prone to eyestrain may want to be careful.
Other than that, The Emperor’s Mahjong has a lot going for it. It’s simple, fun, and fairly addictive, with plenty of replay value.