Mention treasure hunters and some folks will conjure up images of Angelina Jolie from the Tomb Raider flicks. Many more, however, will likely identify with the daring archeology professor Indiana Jones or earlier contemporary Alan Quatermain.
Regardless of who you associate with, it’s an innately dangerous endeavor. Thankfully, Mahjongg Artifacts allows you to do your relic hunting from the ease and comfort of home.
Chronicled via comic panels, our story focuses on archeologist Mark Hawk, a martial arts expert and lover of Mahjongg. In the role of this famed treasure seeker, you’ll embark on a quest through five exotic cultures searching for lost artifacts, particularly a legendary relic that grants god-like powers to its owner. Solve enough puzzles along the way, and the spoils will be yours!
Game play, consistent with Mahjongg historically, involves removing randomly placed tiles from a puzzle in matched pairs, the goal to clear the board. Not surprisingly, strategy is the key to success since initially many tiles are locked. Remove them all and you proceed to the next puzzle. Fail and you start over. Mahjongg Artifacts gives you ample opportunity to do both as you seek to match various images, numbers and symbols.
Of course, it’s not as simple as removing matched pairs alone. Bonus tiles, uncovered along the way, provide assistance. For example, the Great Tile removes all instances of any tile with which you pair it. Wonderful for clearing a large chunk of the board quickly. Meanwhile, Power Tiles can be matched with those of their own suit to remove them from play. Though, pairing them together gives an increased score. Flower and Season Tiles are matched respectively. And, the Mighty Tile eliminates the tile of your choice.
There’s more, as well, in the way of match assists. Button controls include an Eye that darkens locked tiles making available matches easier to spot, a Hint option for help in locating a match (though, it costs you points), Undo to step back a move (also costing points) and a limited option to Shuffle the remaining tiles when no moves are left.
In the process of completing a layout, you must also uncover and match two Golden Tiles. Eradicate all others beforehand and you’ll earn a Clear Bonus. While not a necessity, it helps your score to do so. Obviously, you won’t always be able to complete a board before matching the Golden Tiles due to tile placement. In that case, all remaining tiles are removed automatically once the Golden Tiles are paired.
To make Mahjongg Artifacts’ tile-matching more interesting, three modes of play are provided: Quest, Classic and Endless. Quest Mode consists of 25 levels spread thematically across five episodes each. Classic, available after you’ve completed the first puzzle in Quest Mode, allows you to select from any of 99 Mahjongg layouts, as well as to choose between 27 different backgrounds and five diverse tile sets. Finally, an innovative Endless Mode, activated once you’ve assembled the first Quest artifact, is just that, endless layers of tiles that form a continuously rising tower.
So, as far as tile games go, where do we find Mahjongg Artifacts? At the top of its class! Visuals are stunning and include animated backdrops with fog and mist overlays and various pyrotechnic tile effects. Comic-style graphics employed for Quest Mode cutscenes are well executed, too. Audio is also first rate with six different songs in the queue based on the ancient cultures represented. Plus, game play is a snap to learn and quite addictive. It doesn’t hurt either that upgrades to newer versions are free once you register.
Are there any cracked tiles in the mix? Yes, but I found just two. Quest Mode is a bit shorter than ideal (a doubling of layouts would be nice). And, play in Endless Mode gets tediously repetitive in short measure. After 20 minutes, I quit from monotony. For this mode to be effective, and enjoyable, it needs an added twist of some sort (maybe a mini-game or change in play every 10 layers). Otherwise, it’s a wash.
Putting all tiles on the table, Mahjongg Artifacts’ shortcomings are niggling at best. This tile-matcher is engaging, entertaining and expertly crafted. It’s got plenty of eye and ear candy, but not at the expense of great play. These lost artifacts are definitely worth rediscovering.