Mahjongg Investigations: Under Suspicion can best be described as a combination of the ancient tile-matching game of Mahjongg (also referred to as Shanghai) and the classic whodunit board game of Clue.
That is, not only do you need to pair up identical tiles on a 3-D board but you’re playing this game at a crime scene, in the hopes to unravel enough clues to pin the charge on a suspect.
This interesting fusion works — for the most part.
You play as a skilled detective in the 83rd precinct of the Metro City police, determined to help cease the rise of organized crime.
Game-play works something like this: you’ll be called to a crime scene — such as a rooftop, shopping mall, restaurant, subway, casino and so forth – and given a text-based description of what transpired here. In order to collect clues, you need to play some Mahjongg solitaire to clear away the screen. This is achieved by studying a pile of tiles and click on two identical tiles so that they clear the board. Instead of flowers or Chinese symbols or other Mahjongg mainstays, this time the designs on the tiles are related to your job, such as handcuffs, bullets, fingerprints, scales, magnifying glasses, briefcases, razorblades and cell phones.
As with other Mahjongg games, only the tiles on the top and the sides of the pile are accessible, therefore you will likely have to think backwards by clicking on a tile match to remove it in order to get the adjacent tile you need. Mismatched tiles you click on go into an "evidence bag," but you only have a limited space here to work with – so be sure to think through your steps before you click. Gamers can also shuffle the tiles or receive a hint, if needed.
Unlike traditional Mahjongg games, every few tile matches will reveal some sort of clue you can use to deduce who the suspect is from a list of perpetrators. For instance, you might find out the gender, height, weight or hair color of the suspect, or that his or her blood type is say, B positive. Or you might find out what a suspect’s occupation or hobbies are. At any time you can click to read about the half-dozen or more suspects and then issue a warrant for one – only when you have evidence to do so, or else you go back to the game. If you still don’t have enough evidence to nail the perp, you can click on the map and visit another location before coming back to this one.
Without giving away everything in this review, you can also find and use special tiles that reveal extra suspect clues to help you along; engage in fun and relevant mini-games (such as interrogation rooms and DNA analysis labs); and play through a classic game at any time from the main menu.
While the developers do a good job in offering a fresh CSI-like take on traditional Mahjongg puzzles, it’s not a perfect whodunit adventure. For one, the game gets tougher only after the sixth or seventh location, but many gamers might think it’s too easy for the first hour or two. Secondly, the sound effects that you’ll hear while you play the game are distracting and annoying – it consists of police radio chatter and sirens – so within five minutes I had the audio turned off for the rest of the game. The game’s graphics are also, well, so-so. Another beef is when you put your mouse over some key helper icons on the puzzle screen, it won’t tell you what it does until you click on it.
Despite these nagging issues, Mahjongg Investigations: Under Suspicion should please fans of deduction games, a la Clue, as well as those who enjoy clicking through Mahjongg-style matching tile puzzles. The developers most definitely get points for delivering a unique game experience amid all the copycat clones a casual gamer is bombarded with today.