Version Reviewed: 1.0.5
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2
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To many in the West, Mahjong is a game all about matching tiles and removing them from a layered board. It's a fun game and one that I've frequently enjoyed but it's not really Mahjong. It's actually Mahjong Solitaire which is crucially very different from the traditional game.
Traditional Mahjong is a game that has been around for centuries. It's rather challenging to understand at first but it's worth persevering with. I first played it years ago with a group of helpful friends which is definitely the way to go with figuring it out. Failing that, Janryumon offers plenty of explanation for the game.
The makers of Janryumon have obviously realised that Mahjong isn't the easiest of games to learn. Opening to a huge, 20 chapter interactive tutorial is both intimidating and informative. It even includes some contextual information as to the history of the game and other confusing nuances. This tutorial is led by three anime women which does feel a little pointless but presumably adds some humanity to the experience. However, it's still a tutorial that made me feel as if I should take notes as I played along.
The interface throughout is heavy with Japanese and Chinese characters which doesn't help matters. It's clear why this is here, it's the heritage of the game after all but it doesn't help newcomers to the game.
The focus throughout Janryumon is on its multiplayer/online play which comes at the cost of an entertaining single player mode - something that could have really helped break down the difficulty barriers. Playing against real players feels all the more intimdating when still coming to grips with the gameplay.
While I did enjoy my time with it, all too frequently I felt overwhelmed with understanding what was going on. Janryumon is attractive to look at and no doubt excellent for those who understand Mahjong but for newcomers, it's a fearsome proposition.