You probably didn’t know China and the Bahamas have a lot in common. But after clicking around with Caribbean Mah Jong for a few hours, you’ll quickly realize the two gel well together.
Available for both Windows and Mac gamers, this pretty puzzler from GameHouse combines the ancient Asian tile-matching game of Mah Jong (often referred to as Shanghai) with graphics, music and sound effects from the tranquil Caribbean islands.
The premise is simple: find and click two matching tiles on a pile of more than a hundred. When you make a match – such as two seashells, tropical fish or palm trees — they disappear from the board. The goal is to find and match two buried gold tiles in order to advance to the next level, which will offer a new tile layout. The catch, however, is that not all tiles are accessible to you; only the tiles on the edges or on top of the pile are clickable.
Some tiles do not need to be identical matches, but must be related by theme, such as various flamingo poses or different kinds of parrots.
Since there are four identical tiles on each board, you must also be careful which of the two you pair up as you may unintentionally block tiles you need near the bottom of the pile. If this happens, by the way, you can use up one of your Shuffle moves (which shuffles the tiles around randomly), a Trade Wind move (another kind of shuffle, but it blows all the tiles towards the bottom of the screen) or the Undo command to go back and select different tile matches.
In Caribbean Mah Jong, you board a cruise and travel to 12 different Caribbean islands, such as Bermuda, Barbados, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Virgin Islands, and so forth, Each island houses eight boards apiece, totaling 96 layouts in all (ranging from a simple layout to some that are 15 layers deep!).
If the main Luxury Cruise game mode isn’t for you, where you’ll need to complete islands in a specific order, you may opt for the more straightforward Island Hopping mode and select which island to play first (and if you’d like Easy or Hard tile layouts). Speaking of scaling the difficulty, this game also lets you tweak the tile matching rules to find pairs more quickly.
Playing up the whole Caribbean vacation theme, this game offers beautiful beach backdrops and five sets of tile art, all related to the island you’re on. As an added incentive, players can also collect postcards from each island, as well as amass keepsakes, such as sailboats and flowers. The audio is also nicely tied to the Caribbean theme, be it the sound of splashing waves or steel drums. The game also offers catchy and non-repeating Calypso music.
Perhaps it’s because I’m dreaming of lying on a white beach with an exotic rum drink in one hand and my wife in the other, but it’s difficult to find any major faults with Caribbean Mah Jong. Perhaps one or two extra game modes would add to the game’s replayability, such as a timed one or another with cool power-up tiles.
That said, this Caribbean spin on the ancient tile-matching game proves fun, relaxing and easy on the eyes, which makes it a perfect casual game getaway for those who need a quick break from their hectic lives.