Dragon King Mahjong review

Dragon King Mahjong is a Facebook game from the Texas-based Simply Good Games. It’s been showing activity since January of this year, but has recently been appearing in the Trending section of Facebook’s App Center.

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Like most other “mahjong” games on Facebook, Dragon King Mahjong is not actually a digital version of the rather complex multiplayer mahjong game. Instead, it is an adaptation of mahjong solitaire, also known as Shanghai solitaire. In this single-player game, a set of mahjong tiles are laid out in an aesthetically-pleasing or symbolic pattern, and the player must remove as many of the tiles as possible by matching “open” tiles — those which are free to move horizontally in one or both directions — into pairs.

In regular mahjong solitaire, tiles may not be removed until they have been incorporated into a pair; in Dragon King Mahjong, however, clicking on a single open tile places it in a “select slot” ready for later matching. As the player gains experience levels through playing the game, they open up additional select slots, allowing them to complete a particular arrangement more easily by having several half-finished pairs on the go at once. This is a subtle change to the basic mahjong solitaire rules, but it actually has quite a large impact on the gameplay, as removing an open tile and placing it in the select slot will usually cause another tile to become open, which can subsequently be incorporated into the pair.

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The game has two main modes — a linear sequence of levels occasionally punctuated by “gates” which must be unlocked with keys either obtained from friends or purchased using hard currency; and a weekly challenge puzzle. In the main game, the keys required to unlock the various gates must actually be collected by friends rather than them simply being able to “gift” them by plucking them out of thin air. For some reason, however, the player is apparently unable to use the keys that they have collected themselves. This is, frankly, a rather irritating mechanic seemingly designed simply as a means to do two things: keep players playing, and keep them sending things to their friends. This is understandable from a business perspective, but thematically, it doesn’t make any sense; if a player needs a “Yang” key to progress further and the interface indicates that they have already collected one, why can’t they just use it?

Through playing levels, the player earns Star Gems, which may be used to purchase “collection” items that can be traded in for various prizes. These collection items may also be acquired by chance during normal play, or received as gifts from friends. Pretty much every level includes “gift” tiles that unlock various things which can be sent to friends, and some of the tile sets and backgrounds that may be purchased using hard currency increase the rate at which these tiles appear. Other tile sets and backgrounds boost score, experience gain and provide other bonuses.

Play is throttled through an energy system that restores on each level up. Energy is also expended on powerups which may be used during a level. These vary from highlighting open tiles to shuffling the whole board if there are no available moves — unlike regular mahjong solitaire, in which an attempt is failed if there are no more valid moves, a level in Dragon King Mahjong is only failed if the timer expires, and even then additional time may be purchased if the player desires.

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Dragon King Mahjong is, overall, a pretty good mahjong solitaire game, but its social and monetization features are a little bit too obtrusive to be comfortable. The friend gates in particular are implemented in a rather frustrating manner, as they require the player’s friends to actually earn the keys themselves before being able to gift them. The only option for a player who does not have any friends playing is to expend hard currency, which may not be practical or desirable. This means that for some people, they will eventually reach a “paywall” and have to stop playing. This is disappointing, as the game itself is good fun, well presented and provides an interesting twist on the usual mahjong solitaire format.

Dragon King Mahjong currently occupies the 100,000+ MAU tier with a rank of 2,601 and the 10,000+ DAU tier with a rank of 1,764. Follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for social games and developers.

Play

A good quality mahjong solitaire game with an interesting twist, marred somewhat by overly-aggressive social and monetization features.

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