Kemono Mahjong, developed by Cyberdog Software, is an interesting android/ios game with a very strategic edge that separates itself from other mahjong games. If you’ve ever played classic mahjong where you match tiles together in an attempt to clear the board completely, you’ll be surprised. Kemono Mahjong is nothing like that. This game features a variation of mahjong, riichi mahjong, which is a bit more complicated.
Luckily for a beginner like me, there is a tutorial accessible from the main menu. These tutorials are interactive and in depth. There are five separate tutorials for mastering different parts of the game. If that’s not enough for you, there are links to other great resources at the bottom of the tutorial menu. This game wants to be played, and it wants to be played correctly. If you’re already a seasoned riichi player, fear not! The tutorial is not forced upon players. You can jump right into the action without any extra effort.
I did the first few tutorials and set out to play riichi mahjong for the first time. It’s confusing and a little intimidating, but Kemono Mahjong does not want you to feel deterred from playing! It has several welcoming characteristics that could draw any player in, including buttons prompting you to make certain moves just in case you miss them.
The game features several characters that you can play beside, each with their own distinct play style. It’s a nice touch, and certainly not something I’ve seen done often in similar apps. For me, these characters are the icing on the cake. They keep me interested, showcasing their own personalities. Just the other day I was playing an intense game of Trivial Pursuit on my PS4 with a bunch of computer players, but none of them really seemed like a threat. They were players that changed every round of play, shuffling character sprites and names. I felt detached from them. With Kemono Mahjong, I felt the opposite way. There are only a few characters, but they all have their own personalities and voices. Another great touch. When a player scores a riichi, pung, ron, chow, etc. their character shouts it out loud. The game ends up feeling really competitive this way and I want nothing more than to take down my opponents! I really do get the feeling that I’m playing with a group of friends, especially when one of the guys shouts at me to “Hurry up!” as I stare for just a second too long at the pieces in front of me.
The gameplay can end up feeling very repetitive, and unless you’re a really big riichi mahjong fan, I don’t see it being the game you play for hours. It’s more likely a good game to play on your commute home. If you’re playing for an extended amount of time, the music will cut out abruptly which I feel detracts from the player’s experience. The music otherwise is very soothing and I think it fits this casual game perfectly. There are no female characters to play against, but the developer has mentioned on their social media that they will be adding some in which will be a great touch.
A story mode would really round this game out nicely. We are already set up to like the characters, so why not give us a mode with just a little bit more direction by them. Or hey, if a story mode contrasts with the casual gaming experience why not an arcade or challenge mode? Give the player a reason to keep playing after only a few games. Also, more dialogue variation would be great. You can only hear “Hurry Up!” for so long before it becomes a bit repetitive and jarring. Riichi Mahjong is a multiplayer experience, yet there is only the option to play against a small amount of computers. Adding a multiplayer function would keep this game fresh, as you never know who you’ll be playing against.
Overall, Kemono Mahjong is a fun game that’s appealing to people who either already know how to play or want to learn how to play. It requires a bit more effort to pick up if you’re not familiar with riichi mahjong at all (like me). Though the game provides a massive amount of learning material and it features a bright cast of characters that keep my attention on the screen. Kemono Mahjong may not be the best game to jump right into, but if you have some time and dedication it is a strategic and competitive experience that keeps you on your toes. If you’re a fan of intricate card/board games then you can pick up this game on android and ios for the low price of $3.99.
For more information on the game’s development, head on over to the game’s page right here and its twitter right here. How do you feel about casual games? Do you see yourself getting into a game like this? Let me know in the comments below!