Enjoying the Nordic Chills and Strategic Thrills of Nordland Mahjongg

Nordland Mahjongg
Reviewed On
Steam (PC)
Available For

It’s been a little while since GiN looked at a so-called classic game rendered or reimagined as a video game. Publishers like Sierra used to offer entire collections of titles filled with games like checkers, chess and other classic board games, but it’s been years since a package like that made a big splash. However, one developer that has kind of taken up the mantle and stepped up to create quite a few classic and casual games is Magnussoft. They offer their titles though the Steam platform for PC players. And some of them are also available for the iOS and Android mobile platforms through publisher Big Fish Games.

One of the latest offerings from Magnussoft is called Nordland Mahjongg, and centers around the game of mahjongg, which is a classic that is still actively being played and enjoyed by millions of enthusiasts. Like most Magnussoft titles, Nordland Mahjongg strives to offer a bit more than just the core experience to its players, which in this case makes it a very good value at just $6 on Steam.

For those of you who don’t know a lot about it, mahjongg is kind of like a reverse puzzle where instead of trying to put pieces down, players are tasked with removing colorful rectangles from the board based on various rules. Those rules include the fact that the pieces need to match one another and also either be sitting on the top row or along the side of the board so that they are unlocked and free. Oftentimes, you will see a possible match that you could make, but one or both of the tiles are locked beside or under others that need to be removed first in order to free up that future match.

While playing with physical tiles, mahjongg can be a really interesting and relaxing experience, but you kind of need to really understand the rules. With a video game like Nordland Mahjongg, you can instead get a tutorial about how to play. The title also actively enforces the rules, so you can’t, for example, pull locked tiles off the board. There is also a kind of learn-as-you-go aspect as well, where players figure out that they can match similar tiles, like Summer and Winter, because they are both seasons. Finally, being in video game format means that you can do two things that are not possible in the physical world: ask for a hint and reshuffle the tiles. If you are stuck, you can ask for a hint and Nordland Mahjongg will show you a match. And if there are no possible moves left, you can reshuffle the entire board which swaps tiles but also places them back in the same pattern as they were before, something that would not be easy using physical pieces.

Nordland Mahjongg offers three game modes to choose from, Classic, Duel and Parade. Starting with Classic, this is the typical game where you are charged with removing all the pieces from the board in as efficient a way as possible. Points are awarded based on how few moves it takes you to accomplish that and also how quickly you can win, with players earning between one and three stars to indicate their level of success.

In Classic mode, there are 36 normal levels to play, which start off easy and gradually get more complicated as you continue. More complex levels include tiles stacking on top of one another (adding a 3D element) as well as more visually complicated designs. There are also a handful of levels that you can unlock by spending those stars you earn as you play.

Parade mode is kind of like a lightning version of mahjongg where a Viking longship sails across the top of the screen loaded with tiles. Players need to match the tiles in the ship with an open one on the board to make a match, and everything is timed. If one of the tiles on the ship makes it all the way to the far side of the screen without being matched, then it counts as a loss. Parade mode is pretty exciting, although you do lose quite a bit of the serene kind of vibe when tackling it.

The final mode is called Duel, and it’s the weakest of the three. In Duel, you are playing against a so-called mahjongg master controlled by the computer who puts tiles down on the board, generally trying to lock key pieces in place and thwart your progress at clearing everything. You can also place tiles, which you need to do in order to set up future moves so that you can pull existing tiles off the board. But the master will often block those future moves when they place their tiles. The tutorial for Duel is not very good, and I really did not understand what was going on in this mode for the longest time. I suppose those who crave competition will enjoy this mode, but I just found it annoying that this mahjongg master jerk was constantly trying to mess up my progress.

In all three modes, players have a lot of choices in terms of how their board looks, which is really nice. There are a variety of really stunning backgrounds that you can pick to sit behind your tiles, all of which pair nicely with the relaxing soundtrack. There are also quite a few tile sets as well, including several traditional variants with Chinese characters and symbols. And because this is Nordland Mahjongg, many of the tile designs feature Viking themes like axes, longships, helmets and shields. There are also some northern designs featuring puffins, colorful flowers, hiking backpacks and things like that. A few other off-theme designs like those relating to a deck of cards are also available. Some of the designs are quite colorful, while others mostly have just black printing.

Players looking for a casual gaming experience or a nice way to train their brain for more critical thinking using mahjongg should give Nordland Mahjongg a try. For just $6, it offers a lot of entertainment and content, and a pretty unique twist on a popular classic.

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