Unlike the many versions of solitaire Mahjong which have proliferated on home computers in the last decade, Hong Kong Mahjong Pro is the real deal. Traditionally, Mahjong is played against three opponents utilizing a 144-tile set. Although seemingly complex, the game is actually easy to play but very difficult to master. Four players, representing east, south, west and north, sit around a table and stack the 144 tiles into a square "wall". Each player then receives 13 tiles (from the wall) and proceeds to take turns selecting a tile from the wall and discarding one into the middle of the table. As in gin rummy, players have the option of claiming a discarded tile (it must then be played immediately as part of a set) instead of taking one from the wall. The object of the game is to have one player be the first to assemble a "complete" hand which is defined as four Sets and one Pair (14-tiles total). The 144 tiles are made up of three "suits" (bamboo, circles or characters) numbered 1 to 9 (4 of each for a total of 108 tiles), four winds (east, west, south, north) (4 each for a total of 16 tiles) , four flowers (only 2 each for a total of 8 tiles), and three dragons (white, red, green) (4 each for a total of 12 tiles). A game consists of four rounds, with play proceeding counterclockwise until someone wins or all tiles have been drawn from the wall with no winner (called a dead hand). A complete game has a minimum of sixteen hands and very often more.
A strong point of design in Hong Kong Mahjong Pro is the ease with which the game performs many of the possibly confusing functions of actual game play, such as the proper rotation of the players and compilation of points including a screen that shows how the hand was scored with updates on player wins and losses. The game is best played using the mouse to manipulate tiles and access the various menus. The interface is extremely smooth and well coordinated. A separate tutorial program is provided by the designers which includes a quick lesson on rules and scoring, a game demonstration and the option to play in Novice mode which means lots of advice and hints on gameplay and what tiles to discard from the Mahjong Sparrow, an on-line mentor. The short but concise manual contains a short history on the game of Mahjong and comprehensive explanations of gameplay and the pieces (tiles). Once learned, Hong Kong Mahjong Pro will afford the player hours and hours of addictive gaming, especially at the expert levels where the computer opponents play cutthroat Mahjong. Ease of play, complex strategy and a tasteful graphical presentation makes Hong Kong Mahjong Pro a winner all the way.
Graphics: The game supports SVGA 256-color although it will run in VGA. To experience the best clarity and pleasing graphical displays, SVGA is a must. The computer opponents are depicted by animated portraits (real people) and the tile sets are based on traditional Japanese symbols (with an option to choose extra markings on the tiles for ease of recognition).
Sound: Digitized voice and sound effects adds greatly to the overall appeal of the game. Although the vocabulary is somewhat limited for the computer players, each opponent has his or her own personality which comes out during play.
Enjoyment: Depends totally on your like or dislike for the basic game of Mahjong itself. If you're a fan, you can't do better than this game as the strength of the computer players is awesome (at expert level). It's a full package that captures the feel of the game and can become addictive. Like any other traditional board or card game, all the elements that make up the appeal are here -- the computerized aspects allow for a smooth running, easily controlled environment.
Replay Value: Like any card game, the replay possibilities are endless.
This game allows the player to play the ancient game of Mahjong against three computer players. Unlike many other games with Mahjong in the title, this game does not consists of picking matching tiles off of a pile of tiles to see if you can remove them all. Instead, it plays similarly to the card game Gin where you must accumulate straights or runs to win. However, Mahjong has its own special rules involving the special tiles used to play the game.
The game has a number of pre-programmed opponents, each with their own portrait, voice, and play style.
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