Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
PATIENCE games have always been an odd subject for computerisation, simply because you can usually get much better value from a pack of cards and a book on the subject. What's so different about this one that made Activision release home micro versions of it a few years back and produced this Sega Master System cartridge now?
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For starters, a pack of cards wouldn't get you very far here. The game's played with a set of Mah Jong tiles, stacked in an elaborate pattern. Your aim is to remove end-of-row tiles trom the layout in matching pairs, until you've cleared the whole thing away. There being 144 tiles to a Mah Jong set, this is a sizable proposition indeed.
Even if you're an avid Mah Jong fan and have a set of tiles at the ready, you'll still find the computer version has the edge. The large, tightly packed layout would take a long time to set up by hand, and be tough to work with in play. More to the point, the electronic version of the game lets you replay deals which end up blocked in play (and many do).
Although rather mechanical at fist sight, the gameplay does place definite demands on the brain. Each tile in a Mah Jong set matches three others, so you'll often be faced with a choice over which pair you form. As you get deeper into game strategy you'll often find that, though a pair is available immediately, you'll want to save the tiles involved for use in different pairings, so as to extract others still locked into the layout. Some set-ups will take four or five attempts to solve, and a few can't be solved at all - but that's patience for you.
By turns soothingly routine and fiendishly complex, Shanghai makes a satisfying change from all that blasting - but be warned, it's at least as addictive!
Graphics and music are both well up to normal Sega standards, and the pointer control system works well. A great addition to anyone's cartridge collection!
Good blasting fun, but it won't keep you playing for long periods.