European developer MegaZebra is doing well with its latest Facebook game, Mahjong Trails. A new iteration on a classic type of casual game, Mahjong Trails is a simple title that has grown steadily in past weeks, now boasting north of 664,000 monthly active users, and doing significantly better than previous MegaZebra title Jewels Rock.
It goes without saying that the entertaining and zen-like nature of Mahjong is contributing to this growth. The rules are fairly simple. Players are given a pattern made up of dozens of random tiles. Each tile has a different image atop it, with more difficult levels of the game containing more variety. The idea is to remove all tiles from the board by matching pairs.
However, a tile can only be selected as part of a pair should it have no tiles above it (many patterns use a pyramid sort of shape), nor any tiles to either its left of right (the left or right side of the tile must be exposed).
Mahjong Trails doesn’t rely solely on the classic tile game rules. Rather than granting players the ability to select their own patterns and level layouts, Trails has a visible progression to it. Players start on the southernmost tip of South America, and gradually wind themselves around the globe until they reach eastern Asia. Each progressive level becomes significantly harder, and each continent comes with new, stylistic music and backgrounds.
As players win, they earn experience towards new levels, which rewards the user with Trail Coins. With this virtual currency, players are able to purchase seemingly aesthetic items such as new backgrounds and different symbols for the in-game tiles. In fact, as the game’s secondary objective (secondary to actually finishing a puzzle) is to compete with friends for high scores, these decorations actually come in handy.
One of the more important means of augmenting the score is time. Each puzzle in the game has a time limit in which it must be finished, but the faster it is completed, the more points are earned. As such, many of tiles that players can purchase, and will then find in the game, are intentionally designed to be highly contrasting and visible (as are many of the backgrounds). Additionally, players can purchase two power-ups that will either reshuffle the pattern or remove a single tile, in order to keep the player from getting stuck.
Perhaps the most important detail is that players must also purchase “Tickets” in order to progress to higher difficulties (new continents), with each subsequent ticket costing more. In order to mitigate this, the Trails Coins cost of tickets can be substituted by a friend cost. For example, in order to travel to North American, one needs to have three friends playing with them.
Our only real complaint with the game is that Mahjong has been done time and time again, so the core of Mahjong Trails is hardly original. Nevertheless, with new puzzles, a handful of minor mechanics, and new visuals and music (arguably one of the most important aspects of a relaxing Mahjong game), it still feels fresh.
Mahjong Trails is fun if you’re a puzzle-game fan. That said, its new elements are minor compared to the, very dated, core concept. Even so, they are well done, and gives this app a new flavor of its own.