Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 152 / MAY 1993 / PAGE 110

Hong Kong Mahjong Pro. (computer gambling game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Alfred C. Giovetti

Mahjong, a Chinese gambling game that's more than 3000 years old, is played in China, Japan, and Taiwan with it passion that rivals the playing of poker in Atlantic City and Las Vegas. The game mah-jongg, which was popular in America early in this century, uses rules modified for Western play. Every geographical area to which mahjong has spread uses its own variation of the ancient rules of the game. Hong Kong Mahjong Pro uses the Hong Kong rules for the game, believed to be very similar to those used by the ancient Chinese mahjong players.

Mahjong derives its name from the design of one sparrow, the spirit of mahjong, sitting on one bamboo stick on one of the tiles used in the game. The 144 tiles are divided into six suits: the characters, the bamboo sticks, the balls (circles or dots), the winds, the dragons, and the flowers. From a wall of tiles that surrounds the playing board, a hand is dealt to each player.

You must choose 3 computer opponents from the screen, which shows 12 increasingly more challenging opponents and their distinctive playing styles. Gameplay is augmented by smoothly animated, high-resolution, black-and-white digitized picture; the opponents' digitized speech; and high-resolution, 256-color, Super VGA still picture. The music, reminiscent of Wing Commander's, can be turned on and off; it generally complements the play. Play proceeds clockwise, as each player picks a tile from the wall, according to the throw of the dice, and discards a tile until a winning hand is made. The complex rules and nuances of mahjong include discard priorities, unique winning hands, and 14 scoring rules, but the excellent interactive tutorial that comes with the game and the instructive help system will get almost anyone playing the game and winning against the easiest opponents in several hours.

This computer version of mahjong is very unforgiving; it lacks a utility to take back a move that may have resulted from a careless slip of the finger. The documentation is flawed concerning the selection of alternative chows, or straights. When presented with one alternative of several chows, you can select No, and the computer will immediately select another alternative chow. The game is for solo play and does not support modem or multiple human players. Once the little inconveniences of gameplay are understood, the game will move along more smoothly.

Hong Kong Mahjong Pro will make it very easy for a beginner to learn this complex game without embarrassment. Mahjong players in search of opponents will find this game a godsend. Some may benefit from understanding the passion that drives many to continue playing this old-time favorite.

IBM PC or compatible, 640K RAM, VGA (640 x 480, 256-color Super VGA recommended), hard disk, mouse; expanded memory recommended, disk cache recommended, supports Roland, Media Vision, Ad Lib. Sound Blaster, and 100-percent compatible sound boards--$49.95

ELECTRONIC ARTS P.O. Box 7578 San Mateo, CA 94403-7578 (415) 572-ARTS

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