The launch of Minis on the PSP has been the best thing to happen on the underused console for years. Even the cack games only set you back a few quid. Mahjongg Artifacts (their spelling) doesn’t have to worry about such things and is well worth the £3.99 asking price.
We get the feeling this version of the ancient game is a bit simpler than the original, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be hooked within minutes. All you have to do is match up pairs of identical blocks, that have pictures on them. Some fall into groups like Roman numerals, Egyptian eyes and so on. Some blocks from the same group can be paired despite being different, such as flowers, weather icons or theatre masks. Special glowing blocks can be paired with any of its kind or suit.
The game feels like a hybrid of solitaire and Bejeweled 2. Every time you get rid of a block the one next to it becomes available for selection, so you sometimes need to plan your route. If you do mess up and reach a ‘no more moves available’ situation you can either start the level again (pftt!) or simply reshuffle the remaining pieces and carry on.
My only real gripe with the whole game is the clunky block selection. Using the d-pad should make it simple to select available blocks. However, there’s a strange auto-selectness to things, as it tries to find the nearest block, so rather than going directly left, it’ll go upwards left. You’ll get used to it, but it can interrupt your flow sometimes.
There are three modes to choose from. Quest is the story mode, complete with a sharply drawn screen of comic book cells. You might not bother paying it much attention, but it’s unobtrusive enough. The quest is like a world tour, taking you across China, Egypt, Greece, Mexico and Atlantis with 25 levels. Each country has its own distinct block patterns and music to keep things feeling fresh. The aim for each level is to match up the two gold blocks, right at the bottom of the pile, so keep an eye on where they get placed at the start. You don’t have to get rid of all the blocks, just most of them to get the gold ones.
Classic mode has 99 levels with each of them being shaped differently. Some are patterns or maybe objects like aeroplanes, trophies, lamps, faces, flags, scorpions and one even looks like a face-hugger from the Alien movies. You must get rid of every block and you don’t get any of the special glowing ones, despite this, the levels flow quicker than the Quest ones.
Endless mode just piles together an endless rectangular block of pieces for you to pair up. Over time the block patterns change to another countries style, but over too much time to be honest. There’s no sense of progression, other than the score, time and ‘X layers disposed.’ Yes it is supposed to be endless, but at least when Bejeweled 2 did the same they had a progress bar for each level and you earned crystals for a flower pattern in the corner. But hey, the other modes are going to keep you busy for ages before you’ll need this one.
Up close the graphics are pin sharp, it’s a shame that for the most part you’ll probably opt to play with a zoomed out shot so you can see the full field, just like FIFA actually. There’s a dynamic zoom that’ll zoom into the outer edges as you progress, but you’ll only see the blocks at their best a few seconds before you complete a level.
- Super-easy to get into
- Loads of levels to get stuck into
- Worth the money, even at £3.99
- Occasionally clunky controls
- It’s going to make you late for something
- Don’t expect any real depth, it is what it is
The Short Version: This is one of the most easy going puzzle games around. With over 100 hundred levels available before you even touch the Endless mode this makes for a good purchase. The lack of any real ‘Game Over’ danger means it’s more relaxed than most block puzzle games too.