Tilesome or res”tile”d classic?

Recently there seems to have been a few titles that have crept onto the Playstation Store without warning. We all know Atelier Totori Plus had no marketing and yet became successful. Farming Simulator did the same and while UK sales haven’t been amazing, in Europe it sold well enough to make it into the top ten charts. Next to the stealth release table is Mahjong Royal Towers. Developed by 8Floor and published on the Vita by 4HIT Ltd we had no idea the game was coming before it was released. The game is available to play on the PC already so the success of this game is going to be down to how the port from PC to Vita is handled. Chances are if you’re into logic or puzzle games, you’ll have heard of Mahjong. If you haven’t the rules are simple and the game involves matching pairs game with a few twists. Tiles are arranged in a variety of patterns and the only tiles that can be removed are matching pairs the are visible and are either on top of other tiles or have a visible side free. You keep matching pairs until there are no moves left or you’ve cleared them all. There are also a couple of special sets of tiles; seasons and flowers. These sets of four can be removed as pairs even if they don’t match. If you’ve played a Mahjong game before and found it boring there is absolutely nothing here that is going to change your mind. If you haven’t however this is not only the first Mahjong title on the Vita, but it’s one with a few twists up it’s sleeve that give a spin on the traditional formula.

Layouts like this can be difficult due to hidden tiles.

Where Mahjong Royal Towers differs from other similar titles is that the goal of this title isn’t to remove all the tiles. Hidden beneath the layers of normal tiles are gold tiles, and these need to be removed to complete the round. Any remaining normal tiles are then added to your overall score for the level and each level has three goals, each of which awards you with a crown. Each tile layout has the standard goal of removing all of the gold tiles which is easy, but the other two crowns are awarded by specific goals which can either be using less than a set number of moves, completing the level within a time limit or getting a (really difficult) high score. If you are aiming for the other two crowns then speed removing tiles becomes a necessity as the faster you remove tiles the more it adds to a multiplier and the higher the multiplier goes the more points each pair removed gives you. To make things a little easier to see there’s a very handy button you can press that shows you the tiles you are free to match and greys the rest out. This is a really good feature as one of my main complaints with Mahjong Royal Towers is that it can feel a little cramped on the screen. You can zoom in and out by pinching but this makes the HUD get in the way of tiles or hides them offscreen so it actually makes things harder than they need to be. It’s not so much a problem with viewing the tiles but as this is a touch based game unless you have the fingers of a child or Calista Flockhart the game sometimes struggles to register your input. I have relatively small hands so it’s a shame that things aren’t as responsive sometimes as they should be given that a lot of the time results are based on speed. It’s worth noting that this doesn’t happen that often but it is rather frustrating.

Highlighting removable tiles is a brilliant feature.

The other special feature you have in Mahjong Royal Towers is the ability to shuffle all the tiles on the board should things be going badly. It takes a considerable time to recharge so needs to be used sparingly but dotted about are silver tiles that when matched instantly recharge the shuffle ability. Outside of these special features it’s plain old Mahjong and whether this is a good thing or bad thing depends on player preference. I personally enjoy this type of game and aside from the slight touch issues there’s little to gripe about. I did find myself occasionally knocking the shuffle button with my knuckle due to the placement at the bottom right of the screen, and I’d have liked the ability to turn the Vita sideways for some of the tile layouts but these are minor issues. The game has loads of levels (way over 100) and so it will take a very long time to complete them and to get all of the crowns will take considerable skill (and a dashing of luck). Mahjong Royal Towers also looks clean and functional and includes a variety of tile themes, though I found the one with numbers easily the best as some of the themes can have similar and confusing looking icons. Background music is fitting and relaxing and there’s a set of trophies for those whores out there (of which I admit I am one).

Remaining tiles give big bonus points at the end of each round.

There really is nothing else to report. The bottom line is this is a cheap game that has been ported well and provides a lot of content for the price of admission. If you like Mahjong then dive right in and if you’ve never tried it this is as good a place as any to start.

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I'm 27 years old, and have been playing games for 20 years now, ever since Sonic and Alex Kidd on the master system. I love most types of games but I have a particular passion for music games and racing games, though Final Fantasy VII is and probably always will by my all time favourite as it's the only computer game to ever make me cry!