What's the Greatest Video Game(s): The Mahjong Huntress and Lost Lands: Dark Overlord

This is an ongoing list where I attempt to review and rank every video game that has ever been created. There is a link to the full list at the bottom, and previous blog entries for write ups of every game reviewed.

This is a two-part episode where we are going to talk about two switch (but I am sure they are available on PC) bargain games: "The Mahjong Huntress" and "Lost Lands: Dark Overlord." Lost Lands is free (as of writing) and The Mahjong game is usually on sale every other week for about $1.00, so if you want to play along.. this is the cheapest episode to play along with.

I have two toddler children that need assistance falling asleep every night (something other parents might understand). Where they just want either my wife or me to sit in the room with them for a little bit to get settled before they fall asleep. For either of us, that means sitting in a rocking chair in a dimly lit room, keeping ourselves occupied either on a phone or switch with the volume turned off for about 15 minute increments. At the same time I have a mental hang-up about playing any game on Switch that I truly want to experience during this time. Whether they are big budget or indie titles, if I am excited to play the game, I want to get the full experience out of the game (big screen, sound on, uninterrupted gameplay, etc.). Enter the two games we are discussing today, perfect candidates for toddler room games.

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The Mahjong Huntress was a game I saw on sale pretty early on in my Switch life. I think it was selling for sub $5.00 and through screenshots reminded me of a game me and my wife loved: "Regency Solitaire." In Regency Solitaire, you go through a story and in-between scenes you play their version of solitaire. My wife loved the game and played it for hours on end, and when I purchased this game I was hoping to recapture that magic (except replace solitaire with Mahjong). She ended up playing some of it, but teetered out pretty quickly, so in one of my nightly quests decided to start from scratch and see the game for myself.

Now to be clear, this is not the competitive Mahjong that you might find in Yakuza, this is simply the solo mahjong where you are looking to take matching tiles off a board, hoping that eventually you can clear the board. The twist that this game brings (outside the story) is that you are given abilities you can use to affect the board (should you earn enough points) as well as an amulet, which allows you to store a piece, effectively removing it from the board until you find its pair. Each level has 3 different stars you can earn: 1 for simply finishing the puzzle, 2 for getting a certain score threshold, and a 3rd star for a rotating goal (beat in under X seconds, don't use the amulet, don't use powers). You can replay any level to get any stars you miss, if you wanted to shoot for a perfect level.

My first issue with this game is how they want the player to essentially play mahjong. When I first discovered mahjong it was on an old Hoyle CD for the PC. Called something like Hoyle Classic Board Games, and I was enraptured with it. It was so much more interesting to me then other single player board games. From that point I have always enjoyed playing mahjong, but I play in a very particular way. I take my time, for me the ultimate goal is to see if you can clear the board, so when you are looking to remove a pair you want to ask yourself, what will this open up? In regular mahjong there is usually 4 of the same piece (with some exceptions), so unless all the pieces are uncovered, you might have to decide which match uncovers more of the board, or a piece that you need. Mahjong while can be a luck based game (depending on how the shuffle works in your favor) I have always viewed it as a puzzle to be solved. Mahjong huntress does not want you to play this game like a puzzle, but as fast as possible. Most of the 3rd objectives are time based, and your points and ability points go up by stringing together combos that require you to quickly make matches in succession as opposed to pausing after every move. In fact I can say with some certainty that you would never hit the score goal, if you paused after each move. This makes every layout play the same way: match everything you can as fast as possible, use an ability (probably shuffle), rinse and repeat. You can beat nearly every mission (and get three stars) using this method, no matter the layout. The only levels where this becomes an issue are the ones where you can't use your powers, in which case they become a frustrating journey in getting lucky with tile placement.

The story is weird and centers around you looking into the disappearance of a man you were only going to marry for money. However, it takes you through a battle with werewolves, fairies, and ghosts as you bounce from location to location. It's ridiculous but nobody bought or played this game, because they thought they were getting a great story out of it. Where I can give the story a pass, I can't with the music. There is one track, one track for the entire game! It doesn't matter what level you are in, what the stakes are in the story, it is one single track on loop for the hours it takes you to complete this game. I can understand that they don't want the music to distract from the game, but how did you think 30+ levels and 200+ challenges should all have the same song playing in the background. It became a great reason to play this muted in the kids room, but oh boy, did I tire of that music quickly.

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Ok, I maybe talked a little long about the mahjong huntress, but that wont be the case for the FREE Lost Lands: Dark Overlord game. This is maybe a reference no one will get, but if anyone is familiar with the company Artifex Mundi, this is a game in that vein. For those unaware, this is a casual ass puzzle game. You click from screen to screen solving easy to moderate puzzles that then open up more screens and more puzzles. Usually these games require a ton of backtracking as you have to gain items from one area to complete puzzles in another. For instance if you are looking to open a chest, first you have to find a key. However, when you find the key, you realize you can't get it until you get a magnet, and on and on it goes until you can open said chest. In the world of Artifex Mundi, a lot of the puzzles were hidden object games, where you look at an incredibly crowded picture looking for 15 items, and should you solve it, you get one of those items that can then be used in a different puzzle. In Dark Lords, the puzzles are varied outside of just hidden object ones, but don't require much more depth. There are some sliding tile puzzles, or matching games, or even a jigsaw puzzle in there, but all puzzles that you can usually solve within 5-10 minutes of thinking about it, or a little bit longer through brute force.

The game is relatively forgiving, as you can't ever get to a fail state in either the game or a puzzle, you might just have to reverse a couple moves you made to get back on track. When all is said and done, I think I completed the game in around 4 hours haphazardly playing it in small chunks.

There is a certain charm to playing these games, as they are as close to turning my brain off to play a game as I can get, and the stories are all as hokey as they can get. In this one, your son is pulled inside a magic tree and possessed by the dark overlord for.... reasons (they never explain it) and you enter his magic world to save your son. I am confused as to why the dark overlord left all these half broken puzzles with valuable items around his castle, knowing that this could eventually be his undoing, but I guess its similar to me leaving dishes on the counter for a couple days.

The highest praise I can give this game is that it is free to download and play, and you would only need to play if you want to use more than the 5 hint coins they give you to start the game. When I finished this game I had only used 3 hint coins, and two of them were a waste (note, don't use them if you don't know where to go, because it just tells you to leave the screen). While I won't encourage people to play this game, I will say that if you like this super casual game market.. I highly suggest "nightmares from the deep", because it might fall into the so bad its good category.

Are either of these games the Greatest game of all time: C'mon now

Where do they rank: The Mahjong Huntress is the new #29 out of 30 games. It really doesn't have redeemable qualities. Its a cheap mahjong games, but those are a dime a dozen. It beats out "Harm's way" at 30, and falls below "99Vidas" at 28. Lost Lands actually comes in at #27, falling short of "Ni No Kuni" at 26.

Up Next: Octodad

Anyone looking for it: here is the link to the list and more if you are interested in following along with me (this is not a self promotion). Here

Thanks for listening.

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