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Mahjong Cub3D

Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Genre: Puzzle
Publisher: Atlus U.S.A.
Developer: SUNSOFT
Release Date: Oct. 11, 2011

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3DS Review - 'Mahjong Cub3D'

by Dustin Chadwell on Nov. 30, 2011 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

Mahjong Cub3D is a tile-matching puzzle game with three-dimensional effects. It's the perfect game to pick up and play solo or with a friend at home, on the go, or on a break, satisfying gamers and fans that enjoy exciting puzzle action.

Mahjong Solitaire is usually comes bundled with a new PC, and if it's not, it eventually makes its way there, right next to Solitaire and Minesweeper. It's not a fantastic game, but it's a pretty good time waster. It's great office PC material, and I'm sure any cubicle worker will agree. It's so often presented in video game form that I've never played the game using actual Mahjong titles. Of course, Mahjong is wildly different than the Solitaire variety; it plays more like Gin Rummy and usually involves gambling.

There's a good chance that you're already familiar with the basics of Mahjong Cub3D. You're probably not going to pay $40 for what is essentially Mahjong Solitaire on the 3DS, regardless of the 3-D effect. That's why this game introduces a twist to try and entice players. Unfortunately, that twist ruins the experience.


In standard Mahjong Solitaire, the playing field is composed of 144 tiles arranged in a variety of patterns and stacked four layers high. The bottom layer generally consists of the most tiles, with each successive layer containing fewer and fewer. The idea is to match up pairs of tiles, which can be taken from any layer provided they are visible and "free." The term free, in Mahjong Solitaire, means that the tile is not stuck between other tiles. If that tile could not move left or right without bumping into another tile, then it can't be considered free, and the space around the tile must be cleared first.

That's pretty much the same concept here in Mahjong Cub3D, but this game throws out the four-layer concept. Instead, the game world is presented in a variety of geometric shapes. It's not just cubes, but a large variety of patterns that you'll encounter throughout the game's three major modes. You can also opt to play standard Mahjong Solitaire, thankfully, but again, that's hardly something you'd want to spend money on. Standard Mahjong Solitaire is little more than a game of matching shapes, and while it can be randomly difficult depending on which tiles are hidden, I hardly consider it to be a game of skill, like other board or card games.


What didn't work about Cub3D are the controls. It's a tedious task to continuously flip the shape in the top screen to match up pairs of tiles. You hold down the left or right button and use the circle pad on the 3DS to rotate the view. You're allowed a full 360 degrees of movement, but the scrolling effect is pretty slow. To the game's benefit, it will always show you the first tile you've selected, and that makes it pretty easy to match up to another tile. It's aggravating to constantly flip the top screen shape only to discover that the one tile you're looking for isn't available. Over a short period of time, what I learned is that Mahjong Solitaire is definitely better experienced on a flat surface.

There are other elements of the controls that make sense and show that the developers tried to create a fun experience. You can easily flip the camera back into its default place by pressing a direction on the d-pad; it's useful if you need to quickly flip back a step. You can also easily undo a move by pressing one of the face buttons, so you're not necessarily committed to an irreversible action. If you really get stuck, another face button serves as a hint provider. Finally, you can zoom the view in and out by using the up and down buttons on the d-pad. None of these options fix my core problem with the game: the 3-D playing field. Having an option to control your rotational speed would have alleviated some of my aggravation, but the options screen does little more than allow you to control music volume and the color of your tiles.


If you find yourself enjoying the concept, there is a fair amount to play. The Cub3D section is divided into three subsections, each with increasing difficulty. These three contain 20 levels apiece, and some of the tougher stages take up quite a bit of your time. If you grow bored with the single-player experience, you can opt to play co-op or versus with another player, but only locally. If you're like me and didn't care for the main game, there's little need to drag a friend into the experience. Finally, there's standard Mahjong Solitaire; like I had said, it's certainly a good time waster, but I would not spend money on it.

The 3-D presentation of Mahjong Cub3D is handled well enough, but this isn't a very dynamic or visual experience. The developers try to spruce it up a bit with background graphics being full of bright neon colors and moving shapes, but your attention is generally focused on the tiles in front of you, so there's not much point in gawking at the rest of the display. Also, while the tiles do "pop" appropriately, the "wow" factor of that effect grows old in a matter of minutes. With the 3-D turned off, it continues to look pretty plain, and the tile shapes looked pretty blurry.

The same dull repetitive nature can be applied to the soundtrack of Mahjong Cub3D. There are a handful of tracks that play throughout, and it doesn't take long to hear them all. It's kind of upbeat and techno-ish, but nothing really stood out to me after I was finished with the game. It's largely forgettable and certainly not a reason to check out the game. That's disappointing because regardless of the quality of most of Sunsoft's older library, it can generally pump out a good soundtrack or two. Alas, that certainly isn't the case here.


One last aspect about the controls that bugged me was the lack of touch-screen support. The game has a series of menus to navigate, all of which are contained on the bottom screen, but you're still stuck scrolling through them with either the d-pad or circle pad. It just seemed like a weird oversight that the game didn't have any touch-screen control. I would have loved the option to display the standard Mahjong Solitaire setup on the bottom screen to control with the stylus. As it is now, it's a little tedious to scroll through the tile selection in the standard game with just the circle pad.

To sum up things, I didn't care for Mahjong Cub3D. I'm all for interesting ways to play established games, and while the developers were clearly trying to change up the formula, I don't feel like it worked. The baffling lack of touch-screen controls, the lackluster 3-D visuals, and tedious task of flipping the geometric pattern to find a matching tile quickly wore thin. It's certainly not a game that I would recommend, whether or not you find yourself in the more casual camp of video game players. Stick to your freeware PC version or pick up a better puzzle game on the 3DS, like the recently released Tetris Axis. Mahjong Cub3D is not worth your money.

Score: 4.0/10



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