Compatible: iPod touch, iPhone, iPhone 3G
On July 21, 2008, iLounge published iPhone Gems: The Best of All 7 Mahjong Games, a feature article looking at the seven different versions of the classic tile-matching game Mahjong. This review focuses on Jirbo's iMahjong ($1); you can read the full article, with screenshots of all of the games together, through the link above.
All of these applications are based upon the same tile-matching game, which is alternately known as “Shanghai,” “Shanghai Mahjong” or “Mahjongg,” though the last of these names is a little inaccurate. The classic Mahjong is a competitive betting game played with Chinese tiles that have been marked with coins or numbers, pieces of bamboo, flowers, directions of wind, or dragons. The iPhone’s Mahjong titles use the same tiles, but are designed to be played by one person rather than a group; you match sets of two like tiles until every tile has been removed from the board. Because this is a one-player game, some refer to this version of Mahjong as Mahjong Solitaire, and though there are standard patterns and rules for presenting the tiles to be matched, each version of the game approaches the rules differently.
A low price is apparently supposed to generate low expectations for Jirbo’s iMahjong, offered for a limited time at a low price as an enticement to play. Frankly, we wouldn’t even spend a dollar on this highly mediocre rendition of the game, which features a static background, a single tile layout, poorly drawn tiles, and one of the worst approaches we’ve yet seen to widescreen/vertical flipping: merely rotating the screen and squishing the aspect ratio. The art doesn’t look good in either orientation, but it looks worse when stretched wide.
With iMahjong, the only challenge is to beat the same table repeatedly, but faster the next time. The game will offer you a hint as to the next move, but has no other frills; the audio is extremely limited and you don’t shift from background to background. Jirbo’s draw is an in-game “avatar” that you create with a separate application and can use to compare scores against friends, but seriously, who wants to compare Mahjong clock times with other people? Our advice is to save your buck or put it towards a different game.