Mah-Jomino Review

By Joel Brodie |

I love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, that yummy mix of chocolate and peanut butter – an awesome confection. But, I find it hard think of them without also reminiscing about that classic Reese’s advertisement from the 80’s (still running on TV Land) where two distracted pedestrians bump into each other and inadvertently “mix” their treats. Picking themselves up they exclaim, “Hey, you got chocolate on my peanut butter!” and “Hey, you got peanut butter in my chocolate!” Of course, the tasty blend is enjoyed by all.

Such is true with Big Fish Games’ and GamesCafe’s Mah-Jomino, as well. In this case, however, it’s a fusion of Mahjong and Dominoes that makes up the scrumptious goodness.

A challenging blend of elements, this game spins the tail of archeologist William McEndri’s search for a dozen ancient artifacts – objects that just might prove the existence of Atlantis. In the role of his daughter, Helen, it’s your charge to scour the globe, from New Delhi to Belfast, in search of these relics.

In essence, Mah-Jomino is a game of two-sided Mahjong. Rather than bearing a single image, each “tile” is double-ended like a domino, adding a new twist by doubling its possible combinations. Four game modes serve to add variety: Quest, Puzzle, Classic and Solitaire. In all, over 250 game boards are provided, all replayable once you’ve solved them. Plus, 10 player profiles allow everyone in the family to play.

Quest Mode takes you around the world as you match your way through 12 multi-level chapters. And, matching is what it’s all about in Mah-Jomino. To progress, you match dominoes to clear them from the board. Since each domino has two match-able sides, they have two potential matches. Select the side you want to match with a mouse click, and then choose another domino to complete the match and remove the pair. Sounds simple, right? Well, it is…with one exception.

Only completely open vertical sides of a domino can be matched. If one side is touching another domino, you can’t use it. If both sides are touched, neither is available – that domino is locked. Conversely, if both sides of are open, either may be used. Obviously, only dominoes on top of a stack are selectable. Those beneath are not available until fully exposed. Make a selection you’re unhappy with? Clicking “Undo” will restore matched dominoes to their original position. You can undo as often as you wish, too, but points are deducted and the countdown continues. When time’s up, the game ends.

So, what’s required to move from one board to the next? While clearing all dominoes from a board is the goal, it’s not a necessity in Quest Mode. Once you uncover a special pair of “MAH” and “JOMINO” dominoes, matching them will clear all remaining dominoes and complete the level. You won’t earn any points, gain any Gem Stones or increase your percentage rank for the dominoes you clear in this fashion, but at least you’ll advance.

As for Gems Stones, these special power-ups (you knew there would be power-ups, right) are scattered across each level. Matching dominoes that include them earns you a bonus and adds time to the clock. Match all Gem pairs on a board, and you earn a special level marker for achievement.

Other crucial power-ups are Hints and Swaps. Hints, highlighted in green, earn you a Hint to use when you’re stuck for a match. Swaps, highlighted in purple, allow you to switch the end positions on a domino. While not a power-up, Stone tiles are a critical element, as well. They’re fixed to the board and make dominoes next to them selectable from one side alone.

As for Mah-Jomino’s other play modes, Puzzle challenges your wits with limited matches and required Swaps. Only one correct way exists to remove dominoes and clear the board. Classic Mode features traditional Mahjong-style layouts with Hints and Swaps coming into play. Finally, Solitaire puts a spin on tried-and-true Domino Solitaire. In this mode, you match dominoes so the total number of dots equals the Domino Total number. Locked, upside-down dominoes are revealed as they become available for play.

An addictive game that’s easy to learn, Mah-Jomino, borrowing from another commercial (Tootsie Roll), “lasts a long time.” Since placement is randomly generated for some dominoes, the game’s extremely replayable. Presentation is a winner, too. Attractive adventure-style graphics and excellent music enhance the atmosphere. There’s really only one complaint to level. The story that accompanies Quest Mode feels extraneous to play. I found myself skipping it most of the time and simply advancing to the next level.

Fans of Mahjong and Dominoes alike will find much to enjoy in Mah-Jomino. Like the ancient games it’s based upon, this one will be around for a good, long time. Now, excuse me while I indulge in some Reese’s Cups and match dominoes.

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