Solitaire mahjong is one of the more popular time-wasters on the internet, so it should probably come as no surprise that one of Creat Studios initial offerings on the Playstation Network is a translation of one of their PC titles, Mahjong Tales: Ancient Wisdom. With so many freeware versions of mahjong available out there, is this game worth your cash?
Mahjong Tales has four play modes. The main one is Ancient Tales, where players go through a series of forty-five levels, which are linked together by a series of Chinese fables. Next, we have Infinity, which allows players to choose from a series of 100 layouts to try out. Then, we have the most interesting mode, Motion, a more action-based game, where players must try to match tiles coming down a conveyor belt. Finally, there is a multiplayer mode, which is a tweaked version of Motion, that allows for both local and online play.
So Mahjong Tales would seem to offer up a good deal of entertainment for solitaire mahjong fans. The problem is, the whole package isn't tied together very well. For starters, the game looks very bland, particularly the cutscenes presented during the Ancient Tales mode. With animation that barely moves, and narration that sounds like it was recorded on a Tandy, the cutscenes give Mahjong Tales the look of a Sega CD game, not a PS3 one.
Sure, graphics and sound normally aren't crucial in a game like this, but it would have been nice if more attention was paid to this aspect. At least the option for custom soundtracks is included, which you'll probably be grateful for, as the soundtrack included with the game seems to be just the same song looping over and over.
Perhaps if the gameplay was a bit more solid, one wouldn't be paying so much attention to the audio/visual aspect of Mahjong Tales. Unfortunately, though, this aspect falls somewhat flat as well. This is the sort of game that really would be best played with a mouse; analog or d-pad control never quite feels solid enough. Also, annoyingly, each match of titles produces a special effect that obscures the playfield, making it hard to chain matches to get big point combos.
Overall, Mahjong Tales isn't a bad game, but it does feel a bit overpriced at $10. With downloadable games like Super Stardust and Bionic Commando, both entries that are also $10, raising the bar over the past year, companies are going to have to step up their output in order to compete in the increasingly crowded field of Playstation Network releases.