Shanghai Mahjong from Mobile Age is one of many iPhone mahjong titles that has been around for a bit and is one of the better titles available. Fans of mahjong will find hours of tile-eliminating entertainment and can keep their game fresh by changing up tiles, backgrounds and game patterns. For occasional casual play, Shanghai Mahjong Free is also available, but the paid version offers so much more.
One of the most notable features of Shanghai Mahjong is the ability to access an online collection of tile artwork (wi-fi access required for iPod touch users). Rather than traditional tiles, users can keep the game interesting by selecting classic movie posters, Andy Warhol images, and even Star Trek tiles. A wide selection of backgrounds is also available and you can select from an extensive variety of tile structures and layouts.
In addition to the ability to customize your game, the user-interface of Shanghai Mahjong is great. Simply tap-to-select to begin deconstructing your mahjong structure. Navigating to and from the various options is equally simple. You can select to play in classic mode or turn “windstorm” mode on and watch the rules of tile selection instantly transform. Each game is automatically saved, returning you to your in-game progress when Shanghai Mahjong is launched again. Naturally, you get your end-of-game fortune cookie upon completion as well.
Other game features I liked include the ability to adjust contrast and transparency as well as the ability to undo your last move and opt for a hint. Swiping right to left will undo your last match and a left to right swipe will show you an available tile match. As much as I try not to need a hint when playing mahjong, I was grateful for this option in Shanghai Mahjong as some of the traditional flower tiles were confusing.
One aspect I didn’t like are the few select layouts that place tiles in the far lower right and left corners. With the information icon and windstorm compass covering the tiles, you can neither see the tiles nor select them easily. This is frustrating especially when there is no option – at least that I could find – to quit and start a new game. You can opt to start a new game when you run out of matches, however. You can also elect to shuffle the tiles if you want to finish your current game.
For flexibility, customization and game options, Shanghai Mahjong scores big. You can always opt to check out the free version, but the full version is so much more complete and has nearly endless options, which means replay value is pretty extensive and the overall value is great. Even Confucius would say Shanghai Mahjong gives big bang for its buck.