Play Mahjong…The Easy Way!
Are you familiar with mahjong? The old tile-matching game that originated in China? It’s a simple enough game that requires a sharp eye and a good sense of strategy. It’s easy to learn, but hard to master.
Mahjong Towers Eternity allows you to play it from the comfort of your own computer without the need to own a full set of tiles or go through the long and arduous process of stacking everything up correctly. Does sound interesting, or fun? Read on.
It Looks Like…Mahjong
Mahjong is notable for being a rather aesthetically-pleasing game, as each individual tile often has some beautifully drawn or painted picture or calligraphy printed on it. Mahjong Towers Eternity does much of the same thing, although small digital tiles created on a computer screen have no hope of ever standing up to the real thing.
Regardless, the graphics are sharp and it’s easy enough to see the difference between tiles. And for those that look similar enough to the untrained eye, or make use of Chinese characters that a western audience is unfamiliar with, they are often labeled with Romanized characters, labels and numbers to make identifying them quickly much easier. Or if you want, you can change the tiles to use less traditional images. One set, for example, consists of animated cartoon characters.
Unfortunately, the tiles are pretty small in order to allow for large arrangements of stacks to be made. For a lot of people, this shouldn’t be a problem, but be warned, anyone with poor eyesight may have to strain their eyes to get a better look.
Music is a collection of Chinese-inspired instrumentals. They’re fairly pleasant on the ear, and relaxing to listen to, just perfect for a slow-paced game like mahjong. None of it will stick with you long after playing, but it gets the job done and easily puts you in a mahjong-playing mood.
But How Does It Play?
Mahjong is similar to the old card game of Concentration; you look for two tiles that have matching patterns printed on them. Where it differs is that you’re not trying to guess which of the face-down cards match. All the tiles are face-up here, so there’s no guesswork here. However, tiles are arranged into odd assortments of vertical stacks and horizontal rows. You can’t just take any two matching tiles and be done with it, you need to work your way down the stacks, and from the outside to the inside for the rows.
In this way, mahjong is surprisingly challenging, and there’s a decent amount of strategy required to master it. Because some tiles will make others more accessible, it’s up to you to decide how to efficiently strip down the “pyramid.”
There’s a fair amount of luck involved as well, as some arrangement just can’t be solved completely. Should that happen, you get one free “shuffle” that mixes the remaining tiles up when no more matches can be made, but even that’s not always enough. This can get kind of annoying, but that’s really more of a problem with mahjong, or any brand of solitaire, than this particular computer game.
Take this information to heart, because one minor niggling issue with Mahjong Towers Eternity is that it doesn’t really include any sort of guide or tutorial on how to play it. It may be understandable, as you won’t really need anything explained if you’re already familiar with the game, and even if you’re not, it’s easy enough to grasp. But for newcomers, it can be a little daunting at first when it seems like some tiles just don’t react when clicked on, and they have nowhere to turn to explain why.
More Than Just Classic Mahjong
Basic mahjong is covered nicely enough in Mahjong Towers Eternity, but it’s not the only mode of play. There’s also Speed mode, which displays all the matching pairs of tiles that can currently be selected, with the emphasis being on clearing them out as fast as possible. And then there’s Concentration mode, where the tiles are laid out face-down and you have to manually flip them over to find the matching sets.
Overall, it’s nice to have variety, but neither of these modes are anything special. Speed is perhaps a little too mindless and easy, amounting to little more than an exercise in rapid clicking.
And while Concentration is interesting in how it makes things even tougher, it really does a number on the strategic aspect of mahjong as you’re completely blind in this. Worse, the game’s interface just makes this type of game a bit more frustrating than it should; a tile that doesn’t match the one you’ve selected won’t react to your clicking, or even if your mouse hovers over it, making it hard to tell if it’s because it doesn’t match, or if it’s still blocked by the “horizontal stacking.”
You might still find some fun to be had in these modes, but they’re no replacement for classic mahjong.
Customize Your Game
What makes Mahjong Towers Eternity one of the cooler simulators of its type out there is the fact that you can design your own arrangements! The editor is flexible and powerful, allowing you to create as many columns and rows as the screen will allow, and stack up to 20 tiles on top of each other!
When you’ve got something that you’re satisfied with, you’re free to play with it. But more than that, you have the ability to share it online so that other avid mahjong fans can test their skills on your creation! Don’t think for once that you’ll be the only mahjong designer out there; even now, there are thousands of creations just waiting to be taken down by you! Uploading and downloading tile arrangements is all done from the convenience of the game itself, and the feature comes packed with all the necessary amenities, including sorting sets by category, and selecting favorite creators that you can quickly access.
Sadly, despite these online capabilities, there is no multiplayer functionality available to Mahjong Towers Eternity. It’s strictly a single player game.
Conclusion - One of the Best Mahjong Games Available
Mahjong Towers Eternity does a brilliant job at showing why and how mahjong has persisted in the world for well over a century: it’s fun and addictive. The digital setting makes playing a round clean and easy, hassle free! The capability to create your own tile layouts adds a new dimension of fun to the formula, and downloading what other players have made adds immensely to the game’s replay value, ensuring that you can play for nearly “eternity.”
Some of the extra modes could use a little work, and it would be nice to be able to play mahjong with other players around the world. But overall, Mahjong Towers Eternity is one of the best editions of electronic mahjong you can find. Definitely worth a look for avid mahjong players, and anyone else looking to get a start on it.
Review by David Galvin
Dave Galvin is a freelance writer and avid gamer. Somehow, he managed to find a way to combine the two passions.
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