Simple addition and Blitz-style gameplay add up to good fun in Maya Whiz

If you’re worried that the ancient Mayans have already made a muck of 2012 by insinuating that the world will end on the winter solstice, then you might enjoy knowing that they’ve focused on happier themes in this new puzzle game by GameDuell. In Maya Whiz, the mathematically adept Mesoamericans are less concerned with making doomsday calendars than with outdoing each other with simple sums in speed matches. It’s not without its stumbles, but Maya Whiz‘s combination of thought-provoking gameplay and Bejeweled Blitz-style mechanics allow for a unique twist on a familiar format that should satisfy many newcomers.

At its core, Maya Whiz consists of nothing more than matching the available numbered cards on the screen to reach a sum of 11 as quickly as you can within 60 seconds. Sometimes two cards (such as an eight and a three) will suffice; but at other times you’ll need to use up to four cards to reach that number, occasionally drawing from the deck at the bottom of the screen if you’re stumped. Match them quickly enough and you’ll trigger a “fire” mode that explodes the cards around each match you make. If this sounds something like Bejeweled Blitz with flashcards, you’re not far off the mark.

Maya Whiz

For some people, that might be a problem. If you’re the kind of person that still calculates tips by hand or calculator (and I count myself among that miserable but numerous crowd), you might find Maya Whiz more than a little challenging, particularly when you need to use more than two cards to reach a sum of 11. In my case, entire matches went by without reaching the fire mode, and I was never able to maintain it once it activated. You’ll also want to make sure you decide on the right combination before you start clicking cards, because any errors will slam your progress to a halt. If you’ve selected more than two or three cards only to realize that they don’t add up to 11, then you’ll need to deselect all but the first card if you want to proceed. In most cases, that’s a loss of at least five seconds.

Beyond that, Maya Whiz has all the trappings of the Blitz formula, ranging from the opportunity to use power-ups with the coins you earn from completing a game to a weekly leaderboard where you can match your prowess at sums against that of your friends. Not all of the power-ups cost money: some, such as a card that adds five seconds to the game, are included in the deck at the start of each round. Other power-ups trigger a bomb when you make a match, and still others make it easier to trigger the fire mode. (And no, not even the latter could remedy my pitiful arithmetic skills.)

Maya Whiz

Nothing stands out in the way of bugs, but the game’s insistence on pressuring me to open my Facebook friends list before I can cancel the command to invite more friends quickly grew annoying. Maya Whiz‘s limited gameplay also seems somewhat forced. Every five matches, you’ll need to wait a short while before playing another game, unless you want to spend 90 cents to refill your bar with turns. It’s usually not a long wait (since the clock keeps ticking even through the matches), but it seems like an unnecessary one since Maya Whiz has many other options to gain revenue by buying coins for power-ups. Unfortunately, another problem lies in the power-ups themselves: Since they’re only granted incrementally by level, friends who’ve been playing longer will have a definite advantage over rookies.

But if you can look past all that, there’s a lot of fun to be had here. The presentation is charming enough (usually featuring an adorable Mayan named Mahisha who both serves as a tutor and a decoy friend in the leaderboards), and the game’s practice of rewarding you for coins after beating the scores of your friends after level eight does much to foster competition. If you’re looking for a Blitz-style game that requires a tad more thought than it’s competitors, then Maya Whiz should easily satisfy you throughout the, oh, 11 months the Mayans say we have left.