(3DS eShop)

3D MahJongg (3DS eShop)

Game Review

3D MahJongg Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

The ancient art of matchmaking

MahJongg is one of the most classic games on the planet, dating back — by some estimations — to around 500 BC. The fact that it's still popular today says a lot about its addictiveness, and its myriad variants range from social group games — think poker — to solitary, puzzle-like experiences. It's the latter that 3D MahJongg brings to the eShop, and while its approach is direct and simple, that just gives the core experience a chance to shine.

There are 200 levels — though there's more to it than that — and each one presents you with a unique layout of tiles. Each tile features an illustration, and if you can match one like tile to another, they are both removed from play. Your goal is to clear all tiles from each of these levels, but doing so is far more complicated than it sounds.

Every level has multiple layers of tiles, keeping much of the playing field out of sight. What's more, not every visible tile can be matched; depending upon the rule set — two of which are included here — you may not be able to make the matches that you'd like. The strategy here therefore requires you to think at least two or three moves ahead; it doesn't so much matter what you match now, as what you'll be able to match later. If you run out of valid moves the level ends and you'll need to start again.

Two sets of rules are included, and one of our few quibbles with this title has to do with the fact that the Rivers variant is selected by default. This wouldn't be so bad except that the option to switch it to Classic is buried in the options menu, and it took us some time to realise that. If you know this going in, however, you can save yourself a bit of confusion.

In a Classic game of MahJongg you can match any tile to any other tile, as long as both tiles are completely exposed on either their left or right side. In the Rivers variant, however, things change substantially: you can only match tiles that are at the same depth on the board, and you can only choose tiles that are connected by an imaginary line that doesn't have to change direction more than twice. It sounds more complicated than it is, but it still takes a bit of getting used to if you're not already familiar with it. Regardless, Classic is a bit more straightforward, and much more friendly to newcomers.

When you manage to match all tiles on a level, your score is added up (including any speed bonuses for finishing quickly, something we admittedly didn't see very often) and you move on to the next level. 200 levels may sound like a lot, but you're actually getting quite a bit more than that, as each level generates anew every time you load it. Therefore if you fail on level 56 and reload it, you'll be looking at a similar layout to what you've seen before, but with the locations of the specific tiles changed. This means you could play through the entire 200 levels several times without ever solving the same puzzle twice. That's a definite selling point.

Play is handled entirely by tapping tiles with the stylus. Successfully match two tiles and they disappear; accidentally make an illegal match and nothing will happen. There's an option to undo move after move, which may help newcomers as they can remove tiles to see what they're hiding, then put them back before making a decision.

Completing levels unlocks different layouts and tile designs that you can use in Free Play, which is a mode that lets you design your own levels. Unfortunately there's no way to share them with other players, but this mode is worth its presence if only because it allows you to build randomised new levels, essentially giving you even more MahJongg possibility.

In terms of presentation the game controls well, and the music — while it consists of only a small number of tracks — is almost surprisingly good. Visually the game has the same issue that every MahJongg solitaire game has, which is that it's sometimes difficult to gauge the depth of the stacks of tiles. This is more of an issue in Rivers than it is in Classic, but it's worth mentioning all the same. The 3D effect is limited to an unnecessary alternative angle of the level on the upper screen, but we doubt anyone expected much of a visual bonanza from a game that's over 20 centuries old anyway.

3D MahJongg is definitely one for those who are already fans. Without a training mode or hints function it's probably not an easy starting point for newcomers. For those who already know how to play, however, it's a great pocket-sized diversion, and it's one that values its own simplicity.


3D MahJongg is a clean and simple package for fans of the solitaire version of MahJongg. With 200 levels — though there are really exponentially more than that — multiple layouts and style unlockables, plus the ability to launch at any point into a random challenge, it's a solid buy for those wanting MahJongg on the go. For those who aren't already fans there's not much here to change your mind, however.

From the web

User Comments (32)



Mowzle said:

Many thanks Chicken for such a detailed review - now I know what the Rivers mode is about - not got round to that yet.
I have this game as a retail release here in the UK. $4.99, which is about 25% of what I paid a year ago, is good value for what sounds like the full version. I see one well known online site is now selling retail copies for £10.
@6ch6ris6: Well Mahjong is popular with many, just as zombi games are popular with others. I can't understand why anyone would want to do battle with putrid walking corpses. There's room for all sorts.
@Tsuchinoko: I want to learn to play real Mahjong on my handheld. Japan seems to have released a number of versions. When will someone bring one to the English speakers of the world?



JJtheTexan said:

I saw this pop up on the eShop the other day and kind of wanted it... but waited to see a review first. As always, Nintendo Life is the only site I know of that tries to review each and every eShop title. Thanks guys! (And yes, I will be getting this now.)



TheInvisibleTor said:

I might get this though I already have a game plan ready: Crashmo, 2 Fast 4 Gnomz, and Crazy Kangaroo.



RupeeClock said:

$5 feels a little much for me to warrant getting this.
But it certainly is a good looking Mahjong experience.

Maybe I'll look into this if it reaches the EU eShop.



Philip_J_Reed said:

Well for one this isn't real Mahjong.

As mentioned in the review this is a solitaire variant — one of many, many, many variants, fans of which wouldn't like to hear that they aren't real! — and it's quite a popular one if the number of other games devoted to it is anything to go by. I used to play this for hours with my friends on my old school computers. It's a great deal of fun.



Shiromikio said:

Thanks for the review. The different tile designs and backgrounds are a nice touch. I'll probably pick this up in the next few days.



zipmon said:

Great review Phil! I love Mahjong (this solitaire version and the cutthroat competitive version alike), and this looks like a perfect set of tiles to take on the go!



Freelance said:

It's a great game and has all the classic rules and none of the 'power up' fluff that other Solitaire Mahjong games have. No more shuffling and there are no hints feature to help if you're stuck. Anyone who likes Solitaire Mahjong should get this game. I think the score would be higher if you're a Solitaire Mahjong fan.

It's annoying that Rivers is turned on by default though, as it doesn't abide by the standard S Mahjong rules and would just confuse people when they first play it. Classic all the way for me.

P.S. Real Mahjong is relatively unknown in NA (unlike Solitaire Mahjong) so I can see why they mostly stay overseas. The DS in particular had quite a large number of them that never came here.



Morpheel said:

I love the music in this game.
The farm and casino themes are pretty good

It's a great upgrade from my previous mahjong game, 3D Mahjong (a completely unrelated dsiware with a strangely similar name).



Klimbatize said:

Are your best times/scores saved for each level?

As usual, a solid and detailed review, Phil. Good work.



Freelance said:

@Krimbatize Yes. The high score section features your high score in 'adventure' mode and also your highest scores for each layout. No times are recorded though.



Klimbatize said:

Thanks. Ha, just downloaded it and saw that. Came on here to answer my own question. It looks like it keeps the top 5 scores for each level, too. Not bad.



StarDust4Ever said:

I downloaded this the other day. Quite fun, but I'm glad you clarified the rules issue. The first puzzle that I selected did not allow me to select any tile, somewhat confusing.



Freelance said:

Good to see other ppl are getting it. On GFAQs, nobody is talking about it at all.



Tsuchinoko said:

@Philip_J_Reed I'm not debating that the game that you reviewed doesn't exist, but I'm just questioning the many versions of this game that exist, from freeware to console versions, while the actual game of Mahjong, the game that originated in China and that we play in Japan as well, the game that carries the actual name that this title uses, doesn't have a release on the 3DS in the west and is really rare to come by.

We sometimes refer to this game as Turtle, although many people refer to it as Shanghai Solitaire.



Victoria said:

This one looks nice compared to some versions I've seen. I don't currently have one on my 3DS so if this comes to the EU, I'll get it.



sinalefa said:

Thanks for the review, Phil. I do remember when a game like this came in Windows (it was 3.11), and it can be very addictive and relaxing.



Philip_J_Reed said:

I do remember when a game like this came in Windows (it was 3.11)

Now I'm jealous! My Windows just came with Solitaire and Minesweeper. (I think I just had 3.1.) We managed to find some shareware version of this game though and passed it around like crazy.

Some of my classmates were swept away by Doom...but me and my friends organized Mahjong parties.

Yeah. I was pretty cool.



RetrogamerFan said:

Good, comprehensive review.
Would be interested in this if it gets released in Europe. I like Mahjong Solitaire games and already have several versions. On Nintendo systems I've got Shanghai II: Dragon;s Eye on the Wii VC/MD, which is good for the Dragon's Eye variant, which i've never seen on another Mah Jong Solitaire game. I've also got the 42-in-1 Classics DS cart and the DSi version simply called Mah Jong, i'll probably delete this (if this becomes avialable) so i can free up space for other DSIware.
I'm quite keen to try this because of the Rivers/Shisen variation, this usually gets missed out of most Mahjong solitaire titles and adds an extra bit of challenge and variety to the title.



Mowzle said:

@Tsuchinoko:Thanks, I checked the link and that looks a nice game, but I assume there's no way to download it to my EU 3DS XL. If there was, I suppose I might be able to play it, if I could find someone to teach me how (not being a reader of Japanese, sadly).



Windy said:

I think its time to jump into Mahjongg for the first time ever! This looks cool. I was tempted years ago to pick up some Mahjong games on PCEngine but never imported any of those. I think its time to try one out



Freelance said:

@sinalefa, Was that PC game Shanghai: Great Moments? (http://www.mobygames.com/game/shanghai-great-moments)
That's simply the best Mahjong Solitaire game ever made. Too bad it doesn't run well on modern PCs though. I miss it.

Shanghai on GB was excellent as well and currently I have MahJong Suite for PC. It's the best PC Mahjong Solitaire game I've played since Shanghai: Great Moments. (http://www.mahjongsuite.com/)

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