FunTown Mahjong

It’s an unforgiving mistress =_=; Some nights ago, while unable to sleep, I decided to check out what was new in the Xbox Marketplace, and to my great surprise, FunTown Mahjong had been released. I was instantly filled with “FUCK YEAH!! O_O”-ness, as I have waited for years to find a Mahjong game that was relatively cheap and didn’t carry the risk of being a virus of some sort (which is why I have stayed away from third party programs on e.g. Facebook). Also, please note that I’m talking about actual Mahjong and not Mahjong Solitaire, which is available almost anywhere.

My interest in Mahjong probably started some years back after having seen it being played in several Asian movies, however, it was not until I watched Akagi and started understanding the basics of gameplay and rules that my interest peaked and I considered playing myself. This should make my reaction of discovering that a Mahjong game had been released more understandable. And obviously, with such a great game being released, I’ve spent whatever free time I’ve had playing it, which is why updates are ever so slow around here. While I wouldn’t say that I’m very good at the game yet, I have been improving >_> Anywho, on to the actual game.

FunTown Mahjong is played using 16-tiles and the scoring is then obviously based on Taiwanese scoring system. In my opinion, this is the best scoring system to use for the game demo, since this scoring system is far easier to understand than the Japanese one, which would probably scare any potential future players away. However, it would be nice if the option of changing the scoring system to that of Classical Chinese, Traditional Hong Kong or Japanese, so we can only how for that to become downloadable content (from what I can infer from screen-shots, this is on its way).

On your first playthrough, you can play a tutorial which makes the basics of gameplay and scoring extremely easy to understand (apparently unless you’re Ryan Geddes of IGN.com, but I digress…). The rest, such as when to call Ting, how to manage your tiles so that you have a higher chance of winning, what your opponents probably have and don’t have, based on what they discard to the pond, etc., quite literally comes with experience from playing rounds. Anders Labich of Mahjong Denmark, the Danish union for Mahjong players (I found this page coincidentally and have no affiliation with the union), wrote that:

•at 0-9 games, players learn about the rules and the basic “do”s and “don’t”s.
•at 10-24 games, players learn about probabilities of melds (i.e. that even melds with a slightly lower probability may lead to more profitable melds and a higher chance of winning).
•at 25-99 games, players learn about safety, i.e. what tiles are safe to discard without impeeding one’s chance to win or at least remain safe, i.e. not becoming the duck (the player discarding a tile leading to someone else winning).
•at 100+ games, players learn to read their opponent and their hands based on they’re discards and agressiveness in play.

In my opinion, for FunTown Mahjong, the number of games needed for steps 1 through 3 can be cut down by one third, since the list by Labich is aimed at learning to play with the Japanese scoring rules. Anywho, the point I’m trying to make is, even if you lose your first dozen ranked games, don’t feel discouraged, you WILL improve the more you play, so keep at it! >:3

Other than that, there’s really not a lot to be said about the game :/ The music is almost endurable (though I would recommend playing your own music using the Xbox’s music player) and gameplay is smooth, though there is a very slight lag when playing ranked matches against people from Asia or the US (since I’m based in EU), but this is to be expected. The learning curve for the basics is about half an hour of tutorial play + a few practice rounds, and then you’re ready to go. You can choose between continue playing the AIs of varying diffucylty in single player mode or go against actual people over Xbox Live in multiplayer mode.

As for characters, you’re stuck with selecting one of the pre-made characters to represent you, which is a bit of a shame in my opinion, since the game is perfect for using your Xbox Avatar instead, so lets hope that becomes a future feature. Also, while it’s only a minor detail, you can choose to have the original faces for tiles (i.e. using Chinese characters) instead of the simplified Western version, and while I would love to say that this is what I’ve done, my screen is too small for me to destinguish some of the character tiles in my own hand, not to mention the exposed Kang and Pungs of the opponent sitting across from me (which is barely visible at all)…

The achievements can be split up in time frames, i.e. the first third can be achieved within the first few days of play, the second third within the first week or two, and the last third within the first two months. Two of them are however based entirely on luck (though you can influence the odds by lying in open wait, i.e. you can use two or even three tiles as your winning tile), and depending on how much you play, can take from months to years to get.

I didn’t give it a perfect score because even though it is great, it lacks originality. After all, it’s technically an already an existing game, but just on a digital media and also because it currently lacks the option to change the scoring rules to e.g. the Japanese one. Also, like already mentioned, two of the achievements are based purely on luck, regardless of how skillfull you are, which in my opinion is a bad concept for an achievement. Also, while not so many are playing it yet (at time of writing, only 1,400 people) which makes waiting for players in ranked games somewhat tedious, I expect the number of players to at least double by the end of March, so it gets one heart on potential.

Score
Totally awesome!
Achivement points gotten # of Achivements gotten Game “status”
60 Points 4 out of 12 Played frequently.

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