Mahjong Cub3d sounds like a good idea on paper; take advantage of the 3DS top screen and give a classic two-dimensional game new depth (pun intended). Unfortunately, the concept doesn’t fare well in execution. There simply isn’t enough here to warrant even the discounted $30 price tag for anyone but the most die hard of mahjong fans.
The game has three modes: Cub3d, Classic and Versus. Classic mode is the solitaire mahjong that we have been playing on computers for ages. Match free tiles to remove them. You either win when all tiles have been removed or lose when there are no more moves left. Cub3d is where the innovation comes into play. The rules are almost identical, with the exception of how free tiles are determined. In Cub3d, tiles need only be free on the two, notched sides. The game also tries to help by shading tiles that aren’t free, but the effect is too subtle to help. Completing a puzzles unlocks the option to impose a time limit to further challenge you during replays.
Rotating the cube is accomplished by holding one of the bumpers and using the thumbdisk. You can also zoom or shift the cube using the D-pad. Unfortunately, this is where the fundamental problem of playing mahjong on the 3DS enters the picture. We’ve always played mahjong by clicking or tapping the tiles we want to remove with a mouse or stylus. In Cub3d, there are absolutely no stylus controls, even on the menu. The touchscreen simply does not function.
On the DS, we might have seen the play space on the lower touchscreen rather than the upper screen. Because this is a 3DS game, though, play is pushed into the 3D space, forcing a separation that simply does not work. Even the Classic setup uses the 3D screen. It also disables rotation, but doesn’t let you move the cursor using the more precise D-pad. The cursor is one of the most frustrating parts of the game as it is often hard to get it to land exactly where you would like. It’s not quite as bad in the Classic setup, but in Cub3d mode, it gets tiresome quickly.
There is also a Versus mode that relies exclusively on download play. We were unable to test this as all play is local-only, however you do only need one copy of the game. This mode is a real-time race to remove the gold tiles from the board. There are also item tiles that can help you and hinder your opponent. Should you have a friend that is both a mahjong fan and has a 3DS, this seems like it would be a fun, trash-talk filled mode.
The box claims over 200 puzzles. From my time with the game, and unless I was missing something, I only found three sets of 20 puzzles in Cub3d mode and 20 Classic puzzles. There are three difficulties, though, so it is possible that those are counted separately even though the layouts are the same.
The presentation of the game is lacking. The psychedelic backgrounds are interesting to look at in 3D, but there is only one per mode. The music is also extremely limited, which means turning down the volume is your best course of action. If you are a mahjong fanatic with a 3DS, this game might be perfect for you. If you only have a passing interest, let this one pass you by.
Review copy provided by publisher.