Does anyone here know how to play Mahjong? I’d heard of it, but if you asked me the rules of the game, or indeed any of the basic mechanics, I’d be at a loss. It conjures up images of oriental palaces and the like, ancient monks in wide-brimmed straw hats sitting meditatively around a board, while leaves fall delicately in the background. So I was mildly surprised to learn that it is still a wildly popular game played ferociously to this day all over Asia. Originating in China, the game has indeed been around for centuries, and it’s about to get a modern update with Mahjong Journey, fresh from established developer G5 games, free and out now for iPad.
First, a brief introduction to Mahjong; the game is commonly played with four players and a set of 144 tiles based on Chinese characters and symbols. In most variations, each player begins by receiving 13 tiles. In turn players draw and discard tiles until they complete a legal hand using the 14th drawn tile to form four groups (melds) and a pair (head). In this iPad iteration, you play with a form of Mahjong solitaire, simplified down to pairing tiles together in order to demolish barriers that stand in your way. What starts out as languid innocent fun soon becomes a tension filled race against time, as pairs start cropping up every which way. You find yourself battling alone against a forceful tide of matching tiles.
It’s all hugely engaging stuff. The game even has a back-story to round out its world; you help a young girl and her grandfather traverse the continent of ancient Asia in search of her lost parents. The game uses this mechanic to take you through all the hotspots of the East; you’ll see the Taj Mahal, the Forbidden City and the wonderfully rendered Mount Fuji. The interface and graphics are gorgeous to look at; what’s clear here is the time and effort that experienced game developer G5 as put into Mahjong Journey. It pays off, as the game is both addictive and visually thrilling.
G5 has also paid attention on the longevity front. The game features 132 types of tiles and over 120 immersive levels to master, with more updates promised over time. If you’re a fan of these types of challenging, ultimately addictive games, especially with a cool Asian twist, Mahjong Journey is definitely one to check out. It’s kind of inspired me to investigate real-life Mahjong to see if it’s as thrilling as this virtual counterpart!
No need to traverse the ancient East to get to grips with Mahjong – it’s free and available now from the honourable App Store!