5-in-1 Mahjong Review
Posted by Zach Kaplan
Overlooking this would be mah-wrong
cerasus.media specialises in telling you exactly what you're getting and giving it to you with no frills. It's questionable that they'd apply that strategy to game that already has four versions available in the DSi Shop, three of which are also priced at 200 Points. Yet 5-in-1 Mahjong is probably the best of the bunch, offering more content for the same low price.
Mahjong solitaire, known to many Westerners simply as "mahjong", challenges the player to clear an assortment of stacked tiles by removing matching pairs, only having access to the top layer. This edition includes an unending ability to shuffle or ask for a hint when stuck; overall, then, it's arguably the perfect casual game for short sessions – it's relaxing, uncomplicated and only as challenging as you like.
The discerning mobile mahjongsman will tell you that Simply Mahjong is the gold standard for the DSi Shop thanks to its generous assortment of 150 arrangements, so the first question to ask is how this fares in comparison. 5-in-1 in fact doubles that amount, giving you 300 boards spread over three difficulty levels. Of course, there's only so much difference between one mahjong solitaire game to the next, but a greater variety in tile arrangement is always a good thing.
The title refers to the five modes available, which help to vary things up but never take the experience much deeper than standard mahjong solitaire. That's available along with Countdown – you're timed, and must complete within 20 minutes; Remember, which hides every tile that you're not currently clicking on; Shuffle, which rearranges the pieces if you don't find a pair in 20 seconds; and Match, which shows you one tile and asks you to find its mate. This last mode just feels like the regular game without the fun of searching out the first tile of the two, and Countdown sets the bar too low to really feel challenging, though the game keeps track of your best time in an out-of-the-way statistics section. Remember mode will have you making more matches by accident than remembering where matching tiles are as you flip over tiles to see what's underneath, though it does make things a lot tougher on the more difficult settings. Shuffle is probably the best of the bunch as it provides an interesting obstacle, but it almost rewards you for not succeeding as it uses as punishment what's intended to help you out when you can't find a pair. All of these provide a nice diversion, but none innovate enough to create a huge draw from standard mahjong solitaire; taking this as well as their flaws into account can amount to a few modes to which you'll rarely return and a few that you'll find give 5-in-1 a little extra variety.
In classic cerasus.media form, the presentation is pretty bare-bones while remaining easy on the eye. The simple wood-style tiles and five colourful design sets make for decent display, and it's scored by a relaxing Asian-style soundtrack. The top screen looks great, with Japanese characters, a spread-out fan and more, all with a bucolic sea green undertone. The icing on the cake is the ability to blow into the DSi microphone to shuffle the tiles – it's gimmicky but fun, and helps make 5-in-1 Mahjong feel just a little bit better than a quintessentially basic board game.
It's quite basic, but 5-in-1 Mahjong's 300 tile arrangements make this the best budget buy in the genre so far for DSiWare, even if the titular extra modes are a mixed bag. It doesn't innovate on the formula, but the content level makes this a solid pick for the casually inclined.