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Publisher: MacPlay    Genre: Board & Card
Min OS X: Any Version    CPU: G3    RAM: 64 MB    Hard Disk: 50 MB    Graphics: 800x600

The Emperor's Mahjong
June 18, 2004 | Sean Daly

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Mahjong, a two thousand year old game, was once reserved only for Chinese royalty. Commoners caught playing the game could face decapitation. Luckily for us the ban was lifted around 500 A.D. and introduced to the United States by Joseph Babcock in the 1920s. Since then many forms of Mahjong have emerged with solitaire being the most common especially on computers and handhelds. This is what Emperorís Mahjong from MacPlay is, a new iteration of Mahjong solitaire.

The game is traditionally played with 144 tiles and four players. Emperorís Mahjong uses all the traditional tiles but in a single player experience. The seven tile categories are Character, Ball, Bamboo, Dragon, Wind, Season and Flower. The first three categories are numbered from 1-9 with 4 of each number while there are 4 Compass tiles and 3 Dragon tiles and again 4 of each. The last two groups, Season and Flower, have 4 distinct tiles each. Graphically the tiles are represented well with three different choices of how they appear during the game. The tiles are arranged in a pattern stacked atop each other four high and offset from one another. Your object is to select matching tiles, which are free either on the left or the right, eventually removing all the tiles on the board. This sounds a lot easier than it is.

Emperorís Mahjong, a port of the 2002 Riverdeep title, adds something new to the solitaire mix by including the Emperorís Challenge which consist of 6 levels with 12 patterns each. Each pattern has a time limit and a set number of tiles that you must remove before time expires to complete the challenge. Every challenge you clear unlocks a Scroll of Wisdom much like the words found in a fortune cookie. Unlock all 12 and you receive a gem. Unlock the 5 gems and you unlock the final 12, most challenging patterns, the Emperorís.

For traditional solitaire players, Emperorís Mahjong also includes a Shanghai version without a time limit using the same patterns from the Emperorís Challenge. This game is very similar to the 1986 Activision game Shanghai that started the solitaire craze. Also included is a 2 player version where players alternate removing tiles and when they are all removed, the player who took the least amount of time wins.

A layout editor is available for making your own patterns and there is also a profile tracker that shows every statistic imaginable. Another surprisingly nice feature is the inclusion of a System 9 and Palm OS version of the game. Those of you with handhelds are getting a great bargain by getting this game.

The gameís graphics are sufficient to express the needs of the game. Nothing spectacular but the presentation is nice and clean. However, the sound is atrocious. You have only three options for background music while playing the game and each is only about a 90 second loop. First time through the music is quaint, next time is repetitive, after that it is pure torture. I recommend you turn off the music after completing your first few patterns. Luckily there is the option of playing in a window allowing you play any music you wish using another program like iTunes.

The game is an enjoyable experience and the inclusion of the Emperorís challenge does make it more intense but if you are not a fan of solitaire you will not be a fan of this game. However, with purchasing decisions like these I often ask myself what would Lucy Liu do? It just so happens that I heard from a reliable source that Lucy Liu has picked up a copy of this game. If it is good enough for her, it should be good enough for you.

The Emperor's Mahjong
Publisher: MacPlay

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