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 Yulan Mahjong Solitaire ($5) from Maverick Software; 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.
The last Mahjong game we reviewed is Yulan Mahjong Solitaire. While we wouldn’t go so far as to call this an embarrassment by comparison with the other titles, it’s definitely not worth the asking price given how much more you get from a game such as Shanghai Mahjong. Here, there are eight tile layouts, one set of tiles, and no background. Smooth scaling and panning of the board are permitted with gestures, enabling you to zoom in close on fairly boring tile artwork, and there’s neither music nor sound effect accompaniment for the on-screen action. A small pop-up menu offers you the ability to get a hint, undo a move, reshuffle the board or begin again; a card at the top left of the screen tells you how many moves remain at any given point.
Yulan Mahjong Solitaire isn’t bad, but frankly, you can get a better experience out of the similarly plain-looking Moonlight Mahjong Lite for free. Like Midnight Martian’s giveaway title, Yulan comes across as an unfinished demo rather than a completed full game, but this one lacks the 3-D twists that make Moonlight so different from the rest. This is plain single-player mahjong, completely forgettable, and illustrates the challenges iPhone game developers will have going forward: the level of polish and richness customers will expect for their $5 has just gone up, and everyone else should expect to trim prices or come up with smarter concepts to justify their releases.
Company and Price
Company: Maverick Software
Title: Yulan Mahjong Solitaire
Compatible: iPod touch, iPhone, iPhone 3G