Mahjong Deluxe 2: Astral Planes is a rather interesting mahjong tile-matching game for your Android device that features unique 3D layout structures. The game is developed by Ensena Soft, an indie game developer based in Mazatlan, Mexico.
Apparently, Ensena Soft has been developing Mahjong games for some time now; they currently have 8 of these in their catalog. Version 1 employs only 2D mahjong tiles, while the second version is shown in glorious 3D. There are three variations to the 3D version of the game and they are titled Alphabet Robots Mahjong 2, Barnyard Mahjong 2, and Letter Land Mahjong 2.
As gameplay is mostly similar across all four 3D versions, we shall be touching on all of them in our review.
What you Get
In Mahjong Deluxe 2: Astral Planes, gone are the standard Mahjong layouts that we are all familiar with. Instead, you will get to do your tile matching using 3D tiles laid out in rather interesting spatial configurations. And this time, they really mean business; tile matching in 3D is not a walk in the park. Not at all. Mahjong tiles can even appear at an angle (or flipped over) to confuse and complicate the matching process.
So as not to overwhelm you, Ensena Soft has decided that all tiles are now open. This means, you can click on any mahjong tile and not concern yourself with matching only mahjong tiles that can slide off the layout (to the left or right).
If you think the introduction of open tiles has dumb-downed the game, then you are totally wrong! You see, tiles can now be hidden within a box of mahjong tiles. To reach these so called hidden (or recessed) tiles, you must first make tile matches on the outer shell. Tricky!
Furthermore, matches are not always found on the same surface. A tile could be on the front surface, while its matching tile can only be found on the rear surface. This means you must rotate the Mahjong layout structure before you via sliding moves. Unless your ability to process an object spatially is excellent, you will find yourself rotating the board round and round, as if you were closely examining the surface of a crystal.
Mahjong Deluxe 2 comes with 4 worlds, with each world having 21 levels. If you do the math, you will find there are 84 intriguing layout structures to play with. One thing you must be aware is that all four variations come with the same 3D layouts. So, if you play level 84 on Mahjong Deluxe 2, you will find the same layout in Letter Land Mahjong 2. It’s too bad the game is not equipped with an editor.
So what are the subtle differences between the four variations?
Mahjong Deluxe 2 : This is the base mahjong game for version 2. We had lighting problems while reviewing this version, although we believe the problem should be solved by the time you read this article.
Alphabet Robot Mahjong 2 : This variation is targeted at kids or adults learning the English letters and numbers. Letters and numbers are pronounced when matches are made.
Barnyard Mahjong 2 : Match animal pictures and listen out for fun animal sounds. To make things fun, you can also match any dog, any cat, or any duck. We were not able to start up the full version of the game, so we loaded the Free version of the game instead.
Letter Land Mahjong 2: Similar to Alphabet Robot Mahjong 2, in that English letters and numbers are used here. Don’t forget you can also match upper case letters with lower case letters.
Despite the minor problems we noted, we feel that Mahjong Deluxe 2 (and its variations) makes for quite an interesting change in the Mahjong tile-matching genre. You get a fully rotatable 3D board layout that can be quite a challenge to solve. You will heave a sigh of satisfaction though when you do complete a level, because we know we sure did.
There’s also a new scoring system added to the game, comprising a mix of stars and points that you can win. But with only 84 levels, we truly wished there could have been more!
We must bring to your attention that rotation appears to be slow in all versions we tested (on our Samsung Galaxy Tab 2.0), but we suspect the problem may be caused by the power of our device not being able to keep up with the graphical computations required by the Unity3D engine. Plus, some tiles did look a wee bit blurry. We were also unable to start Barnyard Mahjong 2, although the Free version ran very smoothly and was great fun to play.