Though I have never been a fan of Solitaire, Minesweeper or any other free Microsoft amenities, I have nevertheless been charmed by the game of Shanghai. I always thought it was better, since in almost all versions of Shanghai I have played, there is an auto-help feature to assist you in solving the game. On the other hand, in Solitaire or Minesweeper, I am more often than not overwhelmed by the more difficult levels. Shanghai, by its concept and nature, is extremely easy to pick up. I can't imagine ever building any of the various designs or playing this in the real world. The rules are simply too mundane for a human to keep track. On the other hand, it works perfectly in the digital world.
Humour me if you are already a Shanghai fan but the basic concept behind it is to remove pairs of Mah-Jongg tiles from elaborately put together designs. There is a caveat to all this. The tile you remove must not be surrounded by other tiles. Hence, it must not be trapped in anyway. Landware has licensed Shanghai from Activision and presents a solidly professional translation of the game. You are given a colourful slate of tiles, good visible tile sizes and finally, a tremendous amount of options. The colour is lush and the tiles all look equally impressive on the Pocket PC. I've seen most of the options on PC versions of Shanghai but I did not expect the Pocket PC version to be so fully equipped. Not only can you generate based on random numbers, you can select from pre-set tile arrangements or even start up the editor to create your own layouts. Shanghai keeps track of the time you take to solve each puzzle sequence. Moreover, my favourite feature, the hint option, works in an immense boon to speeding up play. There is even an undo button to help solve the trickier layouts. All in all, these options are well implemented and the fact that the developers still have 90% or more of the screen devoted to the playing board is a testament to some smart design on their part.
To complement the visuals, Landware features some professional audio effects as well. The downside is the quantity of it. There simply does not seem enough. Simple background tracks would have been much appreciated. There is a comprehensive help file integrated with Shanghai and installation was a snap. Shanghai weighs in at slightly
over half a megabyte. The interface can be done entirely with the stylus alone.
I didn't know that Activision was the license holder for Shanghai. The game has been around so long that I am definitely not surprised. Activision was the creator of many classic games, although they are now a giant publishing behemoth (handling the likes of iD Software, among others). It wasn't until Mechwarrior 2 did Activision escape the demise that had befallen other stalwart game developers; the single inability to change with time. Landware certainly does this light-hearted title the justice it deserves and brings the old game up to speed.
[09/10] Program Size
[12/15] Learning Curve
[ N/A ] Multiplayer