Astraware Mahjong for the HP TouchPad has an interesting recent history, most of which can be read about in our news feature here. So, with such an important role to play in what games Astraware bring to webOS on the TouchPad, is the game good enough to hold such a weight of responsibility on its digital shoulders?
Yes it is, and as it is so similar to the iPhone release which we reviewed here, I have decided to include that review in full and provide a summary of what has changed for this TouchPad release.
“Searching the App Store for the word ‘Mahjong’ yields more results than anyone could ever sift through with any chance of finding the perfect tile game. There are literally hundreds of Mahjong games on iOS, but fear not, as The Smartphone App Review may just have found the best version of the game on Apple’s platform.
Astraware are no strangers to games such as this, as they have been creating quality content for mobile platforms since the old Palm OS days at the very least, and anything they put their name on is usually of good quality. Astraware Mahjong has 30 puzzles to play through, with four difficulty settings, easy, medium, hard and classic. The great thing here is that there is definitely a difference between the difficulty levels, with the ‘classic’ setting extremely difficult to complete puzzles on. The game has a unique ‘zoom’ mode, where the camera automatically sets it’s zoom level to the size of the remaining tiles. It’s a nice feature to have, but I found it quite restrictive and preferred to set the camera to a more standard board overview.
You can still use pinch to zoom in and out manually and look around the board by swiping the screen. The auto zoom mode is good for giving your eyes a rest, however. The graphics on display here are really nice, and the way the developer has made the board and tiles sweep around in 3D really gives the game a feeling of depth. I love the fact that all the menu and options screens are on one table, and when you switch to a game, the camera swoops over the floor to another table where the game is played. It’s great to see subtle effects like this put into a game like this, and the result is one of the most attractive board games on iOS. In addition to the 30 included puzzles, there is also a ‘Mahjong of the day’ feature which is basically a daily challenge on chosen puzzles. You play the puzzle on any difficulty, then submit your time against the world. The game also has a set of achievements to plow through, different tile sets and backgrounds to choose from, but the best thing has to be the exhaustive list of options available to tailor the game to your liking.
There is even a full tutorial for newbies to sink their teeth into. Sound is as expected, with simple sound effects, but there is an option to use your iPod’s music library to add a little bit more audio to the experience. Overall then, great graphics, imaginative tile layouts, a cool online mode and a myriad of options make this one of, if not the best Mahjong games on the App Store. Rating: 91%”
So, at its heart this is an excellent game, and I am pleased to say that this TouchPad version is just as good as the iPhone iteration, only optimised for the bigger screen. It looks great on the TouchPad, and Astraware have done a great job with keeping the visuals looking so sharp on a bigger screen.
My favourite feature, the downloadable daily puzzles are present and correct and there have been a few performance increases. The game really does look splendid on the TouchPad, and it makes you wonder what could have been if HP hadn’t decided to ditch the platform a month after launch.
Overall, Astraware Mahjong is easily the best Mahjong game on the TouchPad and should be considered an essential purchase, not only to ensure Astraware bring more of thier back catalogue to the platform, but because this is a great game in its own right.