jongbou

So this is Jongbou for the Famicom, a mix of Arkanoid and mahjong. It’s an odd mix, but it works. It brings certain elements of both games to the forefront in a way that keeps the game in that stressful-but-fun part of the spectrum.

But the gameplay, first. You’re basically playing Arkanoid, but many of the bricks are overturned mahjong tiles. When you hit one of them, it flips over so that you can see what it is. Hit it again and it drops like an Arkanoid power-up. If you catch it with the paddle, then you can add it to your hand.

Yes, your hand. In addition to playing Arkanoid, you’re also looking at your 12-tile mahjong hand. If you catch a dropped tile, the game pauses and you choose a tile from your hand to discard. The level is completed by either knocking out all of the tiles (ala Arkanoid) or by collecting a winning hand (tsumo! ala mahjong).

So what keeps the game stressful-but-fun?

With Arkanoid, when you reveal a powerup, there is a decision to be made. Do you move the paddle to catch it, or do you keep following the ball? Sometimes it’s safe to catch it, sometimes it’s risky, and sometimes you just have accept that you can’t do both.

With mahjong, personally, I am always looking for a few specific tiles. I watch the discards and I watch my draw and I wait for those few tiles that will take my hand where I am trying to guide it. Playing Jongbou isn’t a lot different. I know what tiles I want and I keep hoping to see them when I turn over the tiles.

But just because I’ve overturned those tiles doesn’t mean I can add them to my hand. I have to hit them again and make them drop. And as soon as I do that, I’m in that familiar Arkanoid scenario. Only the consequences here are more significant. I’m not missing out on a powerup that will make the game easier, I’m missing out on a winning hand. I may be putting myself into a scenario where I can’t get a winning hand at all.

And this happens to me often. I want to catch the tile that keeps my hand in the game, but I know I’ll probably miss the ball and lose a life. And this is an Arkanoid game first and foremost. You don’t lose the game by having a losing hand, you lose by missing the ball.

Somehow, though, this tension keeps the game fun.