|Publisher: Freeverse Genre: Board & Card
|Min OS X: 10.2.8 CPU: Any CPU RAM: 64 MB Hard Disk: 60 MB Graphics: 16 MB VRAM
Sometimes, itís hard to improve on an original. Tim Burton, Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson perfected Batmanís presence on the silver screen. The world didnít need Danny DeVito riding a giant rubber duck, or George Clooney doingÖ whatever it was he did while dressed like Batman. Speed was the best ďbomb on vehicleĒ film, Speed 2 was an unfortunate waste of film. Yet, sometimes an original can be re-made or expanded upon to create something even better. Zach Snyder took George Romeroís cult classic, Dawn of the Dead, and molded it into a morosely frenetic work of art. Ghost in the Shell 2 gave us a beautifully animated tale of existentialism in a world of artificiality.
Freeverse Software has done the same thing in 2005 with Burning Monkey Mahjong Solitaire 2 (BMMS2), a morosely frenetic game of existentialism in a world of artificial monkeys. Or something to that effect. Unlike the previous BMMS, BMMS2 features 32 bit OpenGL rendered tiles, 5 new game modes, integrated iTunes support and a custom Layout editor.
Gameplay: Mahjong Party 05For those unaware, Burning Monkey Mahjong Solitaire 2 is a game of matching and removing ornate tiles from a game board. The tiles are arranged and stacked in various Layouts, each Layout containing varying amounts of tiles and challenges. The gameís object is simple, yet deceivingly tricky. The player must find matching pairs of tiles and remove them from the pile. However, if a tile is sandwiched between 2 tiles, or is covered by another tile it cannot be removed. So, one really needs to think 2 or 3 moves ahead, rather than toss tiles aside willy-nilly. Players can choose to play to simply remove every tile from the board, or in one of BMMS2ís 5 new game modes. For example, in Tile Pick Up players must, as the name implies, pick up (or click) the tiles as quickly as possible. Sure, itís simple, but strangely compelling. For something more complex, players can choose Flowers and Seasons Match mode. In Flowers and Seasons Match, players must match tiles suited to represent various flowers and seasons. Flowers can only match with other flowers and seasons with other seasons. While the new modes are interesting, I still prefer old school Classic mode. Iím all about old school.
Burning Monkey Mahjong Solitaire 2 features many built-in tile Layouts. For example, BMMS2ís Egg Cup Layout contains 68 tiles, whereas the Castle Layout presents players with 252 tiles. While 68 tiles may seem far easier to clear than 252, fewer tiles can also mean less room for error and stupid moves. The game also sports a Random Layout Generator, for those who prefer non-sensical surprises. Also included with BMMS2 is a custom Layout editor which allows players to create and share their own Layouts. Between the gameís plethora of built-in Layouts, Random Layout Generator and Layout editor, Burning Monkey Mahjong Solitaire 2 provides enough variety to sate even the most hardcore Mahjong fanís desires.
Lastly, Burning Monkey Mahjong Solitaire sports a very customizable user interface that is crawling with monkeys. BMMS2 features multiple background images (the image under all the tiles), several depicting beautiful Eastern scenery. There are also many different tile sets. For instance, one can choose traditional Eastern tiles that contain calligraphy style flowers & Eastern symbols. There are also monkey-flavored tiles (note: tiles are not to be ingested and should be kept out of reach of small children) that spotlight the loopy Freeverse mascots. BMMS2 is also home to four monkey onlookers whom spout out jokes, puns, puns about puns and sometimes they even offer sage advice. If anything in this world holds true itís that a monkeyís advice is ALWAYS sound.
Graphics: OpenGL+Monkeys= t3h fun!Unlike the original Burning Monkey Mahjong Solitaire, BMMS2 supports OpenGL rendered 3D tiles. Thatís right, Mahjong replete with particle effects. Does life get any better? Granted, BMMS2 does not require a Radeon X800 humming inside a Dual G5, but such hardware never hurt anyoneÖ Visually, Burning Monkey Mahjong Solitaire is on par with the rest of Freeverseís repertoire. The Mahjong tiles are nicely detailed and whimsically rendered 32-bit color. Being 3D, itís much easier to judge depth and how tiles are stacked. The monkey tiles are my personal favorite, yet the traditional Asian tiles give the game a truly Eastern feel. Thankfully, the ridiculously ornate and hard to read tilesets present in the original BMMS were tweaked in BMMS2.
Sound: BestÖIntroÖEver!Iím just going say right now that Burning Monkey Mahjong Solitaire 2 should win some sort of Grammy for its intro music. The song is raw, powerful, haunting, emotionally charged and above all else, brutally honest. Now, I canít talk about tacos without getting a lump throat. The game also features a classical music soundtrack that sounds EXCELLENT for being in MIDI format. I tend to leave the built-in music on when playing on my PowerBook, but when using my G5 and 5.1 speakers, I turn it off in favor of iTunes and my Alanis/Aimee Mann/Nirvana playlist. Furthermore, BMMS2 features integrated iTunes support from within the game, allowing players to play and cycle through song tracks via hotkeys.
Conclusion: Mahjong: Be There!Freeverse Software has done it again with Burning Monkey Mahjong Solitaire 2. With its addictive gameplay, rich graphics, customizable interface, wide variety of tile Layouts and of course, monkeys, BMMS2 is sure to delight Mahjong veterans and neophytes alike. So, buy this game and start matching tiles!
Now, itís time for some trivia. Somewhere in this review Iíve alluded to film with an Eastern twist, Kill Bill Vol. 2. The first person to identify the allusion and the scene from which it came will win their very own copy of Burning Monkey Mahjong Solitaire 2. (Note: We have a winner! The correct answer was: "I'm all about old school", spoken by Bill while he and Kiddo decided how to finish things.)