Mahjong Journey: Quest for Tikal Review
I often wonder when us Americans will learn to leave a good thing alone. I was excited to hop into Mahjong Journey: Quest for Tikal – my first foray into video game mahjong – only to find nothing akin to the four-player game of strategy and gambling I knew. As seems to be the case with most variants in this hemisphere, Quest for Tikal is another rendition of the wholly American invention of mahjong solitaire, with a bit of a twist.
The rules are fairly simple. Numerous tiles with symbols are stacked into a pile. The width, height, and even the design of the layout may vary, and your job is to find matching pairs until the pile is gone. The trick is that you can only match tiles that are not obscured by others and have at least one side free (not touching another).
You play the role of the dashing Dr. Deanfield, on a quest for the Tiles of Insight… and that about sums up the depths of the storytelling. It serves to get you moving through a gauntlet of 60 puzzles, but more likely, is a thinly disguised excuse for the pseudo-Mayan themed tiles and visuals. It's brilliant really. By replacing a few images, MumboJumbo could potentially release the same game under dozens of names, and probably will.
Oddly, that still doesn't explain why the soundtrack often reminds me of the movie Bad Boys (1995).
A handful of special tiles will be available to you during the 60 stages of adventure mode. They allow you to do things such as swap two tiles, erase a particular type of tile, or reveal all matches. I do wish they were on the side as limited abilities and not mixed into the pile though. More often than not, I used up special tiles because I needed to get at the tiles below them, and not because they helped me in any fashion.
Classic mode provides a good amount of variety, although the special tiles are inexplicably missing. There are 132 layouts and nine game-types. I enjoyed the timed games the most, such as Point Race, in which you lose five points every second. Freecell has an interesting spin as well, and lets you store two tiles off to the side for matching.
It's the lack of proper scorekeeping that hurts Quest for Tikal the most. Each game-type and all 60 layouts of adventure mode have scores, times, and statistics at the end, but no way to look up those of previous matches. In other words, just pretend that every game is your best. Hooray!
Mahjong Journey: Quest for Tikal is a generic title that can be entertaining, but without any sort of payoff. It's the kind of puzzle game that you don't mind playing on a friend's system to kill a few minutes. You play, you win, and you forget.