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Destructoid review: Mahjong Tales: Ancient Wisdom

4:00 PM on 01.27.2009

Dale North

Former Dtoid EIC

I already know what you're thinking. It's a mahjong game, right? How good could it be?

Well, it's a bit different from your standard mahjong game you'd pull up on your PC. Sure, it's still basically just tile matching, and you could likely be using that much-touted number crunching power of the PS3 for something a bit more interesting. But it's nice to take a break every once in awhile, right?

Take a break and read our review of Mahjong Tales: Ancient Wisdom.

Mahjong Tales: Ancient Wisdom (PS3)
Developed by
Creat Studios
Published by Creat Studios
Released on January 9, 2009 (PlayStation Network)

Okay, so it's kind of boring. But what do you expect? Creat Studios did try to do a few different things with the classic formula known as mahjong solitaire, where you're matching stacked tiles to clear a game board. Sadly, each of these new modes are just slightly more interesting than the standard game.

The main story mode attempts to append mahjong to ancient Chinese fables. The game starts a narration and slideshow, and then puts up a game board. After you clear that, another bit of the story is revealed. Do that about ten times, and you'll come to the end of a...well, a pretty boring story. There's no "ancient wisdom" here -- just anti-climatic stories that you could do without.

There's a slightly more interesting Motion mode, which adds a bit of a action puzzle element to the board game. There is a simple stack of mahjong pieces in the middle of the screen, and around them runs a conveyor of constantly moving random pieces. Your job is to select a moving one and use it to clear a like piece in the middle of the screen, rushing to clear them all before a piece moves to the end of the conveyor. If your pieces move all the way around the screen, you'll lose a life. Clear it all, and you'll defeat the dragon. 

Of course, if you just want to mindlessly match tiles, that mode is also included.  There's also online multiplayer, but I have yet to see another opponent show up in match making. 

What is aggravating about all game modes is the control scheme, which has you controlling a PC mouse-style cursor with either the PS3's d-pad or analog stick. Neither give you the precision you're needing, and if you're playing against time, or battling dragons in the Motion mode, it's really easy to guide your cursor to the wrong piece. In many cases, the cursor seems to move just past the area you're hoping to land on. If you're playing a casual game, it's not so bad, but it just about ruins the rest of the game modes. 

Mahjong Tales: Ancient Wisdom looks about as good as you'd expect a mahjong title to look. It's in high-definition, there's some pretty special effects, the graphics are Chinese themed, and there's some neat background art in the story mode, but none of it is anything to write home about. The sound is pretty bad, with the worst being the narration. The stories sound like they're being narrated over a broken headset. What kind of budget did this game have? Finally, the music makes me hungry; it sounds exactly like the songs that my local favorite Chinese restaurant loops daily. Thankfully, there's the option to turn off the sound completely and use your own music collection as background music.

If the control scheme was a better, we'd call Mahjong Tales: Ancient Wisdom a great time-waster for the PS3. But the lack of polish on this boring $10 PlayStation Network game makes us want to call it a waste of time instead.

Score: Below Average (4s have some high points, but they soon give way to glaring faults. Not the worst games, but are difficult to recommend.)

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