Tag Archives: Microsoft Mahjong

Matching pairs of tiles and rotating never felt so good

gd early impressions taptiles_1

I’ve been a huge fan of all things mahjong since the good ol’ college days when I discovered some Flash-based version online that I could play in a resized browser while having AIM conversations next to it with friends and girlfriends into the late hours of the night and the early hours of the morning. It kept me active at a moment’s glance despite my angry eyelids wanting to shut and bring in Mr. Sandman. Conversely, I also adored the time I spent with Picross 3D. You might be wondering what the two of those have in common, and it is beyond evident once you sit down and give Microsoft’s Taptiles a go.

Taptiles, beside being a free download on Windows 10, is mahjong, but with a twist. Usually, a mahjong field is static, either from a top-down perspective or three-quarters view, meaning you can’t see what is behind a number of tiles until you clear the ones on top away first, working only with what is before you. This time around, you can rotate the stack of tiles Fez-like to see every clickable, decorated rectangle, which means you can’t ever really get stuck. Can’t find another tile with those squiggly blue water lines on it? Turn, turn, turn, and you’ll either see it on the other side or find another pair to make to clear the path forward. I’ve only run into a few spots where I ran out of moves, but the game just auto-shuffles the tiles for you.

There are three modes of play in Taptiles: Dash, Origins, and Relaxation. Allow me to sum each of them up in a few sentences. For Dash mode, it’s a race against the clock, with the only way to add more time to it by quickly matching tiles and using special power-ups to help you finish more rounds faster. Truthfully, I found this too stressful and not what I’m looking for when it comes to a game of mahjong. Origins mode contains larger, more challenging puzzles, as well as more relaxed time limit, though the later stages still expect you to move fast. This mode requires some quick thinking and reflexes, but is more enjoyable in the end. Lastly, there’s Relaxation mode, a.k.a. my mode, which offers calming puzzles without the pressure of a ticking clock.

There are also daily challenges. Five, to be exact. Each day, of every month. They range from easy to difficult, and the better you do at them, the more points you’ll earn, which helps increase a progress bar towards acquiring bronze, silver, and gold medals. To be honest, I’ve only logged into the daily challenges a few times to do the easy puzzles; I’m not finding anything worth investing heavily in with this feature, though, for some, I’m sure it’s a cool addition for bragging rights.

I’ve noodled with a few of the timed modes, but my main go-to in Taptiles is Relaxation mode because it lets me play like the good ol’ days, where I can leave it open and do some mindless Internetting, returning to it now and then to clear out a few tiles and watch the board get smaller. Sure, I’m not racking up any sweet non-stop matching bonuses, but that’s never been what mahjong is about. At least to me. I clicked really fast for a bit there and got the Achievement for a speed bonus chain of 30; that said, don’t expect me to pop the one for 150, as that is far too stressful on both my heart and eyes.

How do you prefer to match up a whole bunch of bamboo, character, and circle tiles? With or without a timer? In real life, on a tabletop? As a means of therapy for battling dementia? I honestly want to know.

Throne Together, a block-based puzzle game about building castles


Recently, I got my fill of Angry Birds Rio, so much that I even unlocked all twenty Achievements in it, and so I happily removed it from my Windows 8 phone feeling pretty satisfied with the experience. Which is not at all how I felt about Temple Run 2, since it glitched out and wouldn’t let me unlock the last Achievement despite meeting its requirement on many runs, as well as Microsoft Mahjong, also glitched to the point where I’ll no longer be able to earn 20 medals despite totally being able to. It seems like many games for Microsoft’s Windows 8 phones are less than stellar in the quality assurance section, but since the majority of them are all free, it is hard to grumble too loudly. Anyways, I downloaded two more recently, Throne Together and Hungry Shark Evolution, and I’m here to talk about the former first. Sorry, shark fans.

Well, once again, I couldn’t come up with a clever blog title for Throne Together, and so I went the straightforward route of simply describing exactly what it is: a block-based puzzle game about building castles. So far, after doing five to six puzzles, that premise has remained true and untouched, and so the diversity revolves around what kind of castles you need to build, the pieces you use to build them, how fast you move, and other level-specific challenges. Seems like there is a “lives” system similar to Hexic, wherein you get five chances to not fail and can keep playing until you run out of lives, with them regenerating over real-life time. Oh boy. Definitely not my favorite aspect of free-to-play medium, as I just want to play when I want and for how long I want, but I wonder then if people would just burn through everything super fast and move on to the next shiny item before even contemplating the thought of spending real money to buy a boost or extra slew of blocks. Me, no, I’ll never do that.

I’m no professional castle builder–though I always did make LEGO houses full of booby traps as a kid–but neither is Microsoft. Here’s how it works. Basically, you are shown a crown floating in the air (or sometimes multiple crowns), and you have to construct a castle that will touch these, all either under a time limit or specific number of block pieces used. You also have to factor in that the castle has to be stable, that constructing a long, narrow structure might sway and fall or too much heavy weight on top could crack the foundation and bring everything tumbling down. You can counter this by place additional pieces next to the parts cracking, but only for so long. So far, it’s all been fairly easy to figure out, but I can see future levels as getting very tricky, especially depending on where the crowns are positioned. Additional challenges, like building over a river, are also tossed at you.

I’ve only quickly touch upon the Achievements for Throne Together, which certainly look grinding and some require you to pester your friends, which I won’t do, but what really gets me down is that all the icons are the same: a red throne on a blue background. C’mon, we’re no longer living in the medieval times of Achievements (2007-2008). We can get more creative than this.

Right. I’ve run into a problem that I’m surprised has not popped up on other Windows 8 phone games yet. When moving pieces around with my pointer finger, it is difficult to see the screen and pinpoint where exactly to place them. Maybe I have fat fingers or maybe I don’t. I’ve had to rely on the Tetris way, lining up where I want the piece to fall and then watching it trickle down slowly on its own. During untimed missions, this is fine, but when I need to complete a castle in under X number of seconds, this will not work. The problem is that the castle block pieces are smaller than the end of my fingertip to begin with, so when I touch the screen, I can’t even see what I’m manipulating. You’ll probably hear me complain about this again later in Hungry Shark Evolution.

Anyways, not sure how many levels in total there are here, but I stopped at 16, which is one or two after you learn about blueprints and how building them while trying to build a castle can add extra bonus points to your ultimate score and help you on your path to a three stars rating. There’s no story to follow here, just instructions from a nameless castle inspector, and that’s fine because, while it worked in a cutesy way for Hexic, I just can’t see it adding anything here. The meat of the game are the levels themselves and figuring out the best way to build a castle. I’ll keep at it for a bit, but if the later levels prove too challenging I don’t think I’ll feel too bad abandoning this one. It definitely doesn’t have its hooks in me despite my love for castle structures. While this is absolutely a game of thrones, it is also no Game of Thrones.