Mahjong Cub3d from Sunsoft and Atlus brings a new dimension to the popular tile-matching game from the orient.
It may be worth noting that my only other mahjong experience to this point has been in a few brief mini-game stints in a popular Sega game series known as Yakuza. The premise of the game, put as basically as I can, is to match symbols on two different free tiles. Free tiles are those that are unobstructed by other tiles, except for tiles beneath or to one of its sides. By finding two free tiles that match, and selecting both of them, you eliminate those tiles and may simultaneously reveal another segment of the puzzle.
In practice, mahjong is both competitive and meant to be a relaxing game, although one that requires some critical thinking. Mahjong Cub3d includes three difficulty tiers, and around 200 total puzzles for you to work your way through. Three primary modes are included too -- the 3D, cubed mahjong puzzles, classic 'flat' puzzles, and a two player versus mode.
I found the tutorial to be the best place to start as tells you what the controls are and the point of the game. The idea and controls are simple enough, but the real difficulty lies ahead of you as you advance through the Alpha, Beta, and Gamma difficulty tiers. You can select which tier you want to play at any time. As for the controls, simply press A to select a tile, B to deselect, Y for a hint (three times per puzzle, except in Versus), X to Undo (three times, not available in Versus) and the LT and left stick for camera control. Finally, use up and down on the d-pad to zoom in and out, left to reset the camera, and right to lock the camera onto the currently selected tile.
Available game options are few, but include the ability to change the volume of the background music (BGM), sound effects, and the color of the tiles, which by default is a cream or ivory white. You can also view Records as well.
The heart of Mahjong Cub3d lay in the Cube Mode, whereby you can select your difficulty and choose from a variety of puzzles. More puzzles are unlocked as you go, and you have the ability to disable the timer after you beat the puzzle, too. It is odd to me that you can disable the timer only after beating the puzzle, not before. You can make things harder on yourself by disabling the brightness on free tiles as well. By default, free tiles are brighter than locked tiles, which makes spotting pairs easier.
Versus Mode utilizes Download Play and pits you up against one other player. The goal is to be the first to remove the gold tiles, and use specific tiles to create problems for your opponent. For example, by removing Blind Tiles from your board, you will temporarily make all of your opponent's tiles illegible. A Quake Tile makes your opponent's puzzle shake, making it difficult to concentrate.
Finally, Classic Mode is the standard 2D version of mahjong with the same goals: clear all of the tiles.
Regardless of what mode you're playing in, I thought Sunsoft did a nice job with the presentation. Cube Mode looks really nice in 3D thanks to clear tiles and bright colors. After a while, my eyes got tired of comparing the symbols on the tiles, though. The music and effects are fitting for the atmosphere and provide a little bit of extra energy to the otherwise relatively-slow-paced puzzler. The menus and the manual are very nicely done -- clean and concise.
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