Mahjong Mysteries: Ancient Athena Review

Journey back to ancient Greece - but does mahjong stand the test of time?

Mahjong Mysteries Ancient Athena Review
7th August, 2012 By Ian Morris
Game Info // Mahjong Mysteries: Ancient Athena
Mahjong Mysteries: Ancient Athena Boxart
Publisher: Avanquest
Developer: Avanquest
Players: 1
Subtitles: Full
Available On: DS
Genre: Puzzle

Bearing more than a passing resemblance to the Jewel Link series (specifically, this one to Jewel Link: Legend of Athena), Mahjong Mysteries is a DS puzzle game much in the same vein. Taking you on a "tour" of ancient Greece that mostly involves a dot moving across a menu screen as you go from one level to the next, while it may boast a historical feel and storyline, much of Mahjong Mysteries exists for one, soul purpose - to provide an excuse to let you play through 400 levels of Mahjong goodness. And in that, it achieves its goal. 

Mahjong Mysteries Ancient Athena Screenshot

Spot the tiles you can match, and get rid of them! Not too tricky to begin with, but it soon gets harder...

For those who've never played Mahjong (or Mahjong Solitaire to be specific) before, the rules are fairly simple. Presented with several layers of tiles, it's up to you to attempt to get rid of them all by matching eligible pairs of tiles. In order to be eligible to be removed, tiles must have matching symbols, and be located at the side of the arrangement - the official rules state that a tile must be able to be moved either left or right without disturbing any other tiles in order to be eligible to be removed - and so the number of tiles that are actually in play at any one time is fairly limited. Luckily, it's a lot more straightforward to play than it is to explain - and even better, Mahjong Mysteries brings with it plenty of hints and tips to point you in the right direction anyway.

For the most part, Mahjong Mysteries: Ancient Athena is simply a standard game of Mahjong Solitaire. With some 400 levels available, 100 of which are packaged into a single player Adventure mode, there's certainly plenty to keep you busy - which is certainly a good thing, as once you've got started it's quite tricky to stop.

Moving away from the standard tile matching ever so slightly, Mahjong Mysteries brings with it a range of power ups, intended to make things a little bit easier. As you remove tiles from the grid, you'll occasionally come across these bonus tiles, which grant you a whole host of power-ups. Some let you match them with any tile on the board, while others let you switch any two tiles around. A third, which is incredibly useful, highlights any tiles that can be matched with the tile you've selected. Helping make your progress through the game that little bit easier, these power-up tiles can often help free up the board when you start to run out of eligible matches, and as such often come in handy.

While in real life, thanks to the arrangement of their tiles, many games of mahjong solitaire are actually unfinishable, Mahjong Mysteries: Ancient Athena does a good job of making sure you can complete each of the levels. A counter on screen tells you how many matches are remaining, which can be useful for planning, while should you run out of eligible matches, you're given the option to either restart, skip, or shuffle the tiles and carry on playing. Unfortunately, some of the levels you get given are so complicated, you'll find yourself running out of matches rather early on - on several stages we played, we ended up having to shuffle the tiles three or four times, which is nothing if not off putting - but at least we got to the end. 

Mahjong Mysteries Ancient Athena Screenshot

Some of the harder levels have some rather odd arrangements

Sadly, though, although there are 400 levels in the game, it can be quite hard to keep track of which levels you've done. Whilst this obviously isn't a problem in the Adventure mode, where you go through 100 levels in a linear progression, in the game's "relax mode", you're free to take your pick from 300 levels grouped into three different difficulty levels - but there's nothing that keeps track of which levels you've completed. While it's of course possible to manually make a note of which levels you've got to, it'd be nice if the game ticked them off for you - otherwise, there's no real incentive to keep playing through the levels that are remaining.

To come back to the aforementioned "relax mode" - as the second mode in the game, along with the adventure mode, "relax mode" is something of an anti-Ronseal, in that it's not at all what it says on the tin. While Bejeweled 3's relax mode removes all time limits and scores, and instead sets you various breathing challenges while you're making your matches, in Mahjong Mysteries, "relax mode" instead gives you the option of playing through 10 different Mahjong themed modes. Each of these modes is a variation on the standard mahjong theme, and while they're not particularly relaxing, they at least offer something of a bit of variety to an otherwise same-y game. Modes on offer include "Shuffle", which asks you to make a match every 20 seconds, or else it'll shuffle the tiles, "Match", which asks you to find the tile displayed (basically turning it into a big game of I spy - or Where's Wally), while "Freecell" gives you the option of dragging one of the tiles off the board into a holding cell, letting you get at the tiles underneath it.

While it may not have too many bells and whistles, Mahjong Mysteries: Ancient Athena is still an enjoyable little puzzle game. With a budget price to reflect that (it's currently available on Amazon for under £13, if you're looking for a game to take away for the summer holidays, Mahjong Mysteries could be the perfect poolside companion.

Format Reviewed: Nintendo DS

StarStarStarHalf starEmpty star
Mahjong Madness
  • +
    Plenty of levels to play through.
  • +
    Oh, go on - just one more level.
  • +
    Budget price.
  • -
    Hard to track which levels you've done.
  • -
    Sometimes a bit awkward to select the right pieces.
  • -
    Have to reset levels a bit too often.
Disclaimer/disclosure: Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Links to Amazon are affiliate links, and we will receive a small fee should you choose to complete the purchase using these links. This doesn't affect the price you pay for your product.
Outcyders Logo

© 2010 - 2024 Outcyders

Follow Us: