You have to respect a game that is up-front about what it is; one that says to you “we both know why you’re here.”
Japanese developers and localisers — particularly in the visual novel sector, and especially when it comes to nukige, or games where the main point is sexual content rather than narrative — are good at this sort of frank honesty; browsing, for example, MangaGamer’s (emphatically not safe for work) front page reveals titles such as Boob Wars: Big Breasts vs Flat Chests, Busty Maid: Creampie Heaven and the gloriously self-aware Eroge: Sex and Games Makes Sexy Games.
Devleoper-publisher Zoo Corporation is no stranger to this practice, either, with its various labels Norn, Cybele, Miel and Yumesta each putting out a variety of games with fairly self-explanatory titles. Prior to 2015, the only Zoo title we’d seen in the West was 1994 puzzler BreakThru! — which Tetris creator Alexey Pajitnov had his name attached to despite having very little to do with — but all that changed with the release of Mahjong Pretty Girls Battle in January of that year.
A new series was born, with Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire being its latest installment. And, you know, it’s pretty good, particularly considering its ludicrously cheap price at the time of writing.
As the title suggests, Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire is a game that involves both pretty girls and mahjong solitaire.
For the unfamiliar, mahjong solitaire — also sometimes known as Shanghai solitaire — is a game that uses the tiles from venerable Chinese game mahjong, but which otherwise bears no resemblance to its partial namesake. The tiles are arranged in various patterns, and the goal is to eliminate all of the tiles by matching pairs of them. There’s only one restriction: any tiles you match must be “free”, meaning that one or both of their long (vertical) sides are exposed; to put it another way, you can move or remove it without disturbing any other tiles.
The most common arrangement of tiles in mahjong solitaire is known as “the turtle”, and consists of four layers of tiles. Over the years, numerous alternative arrangements have been used besides the turtle, and most computer incarnations of mahjong solitaire through the ages have incorporated a wide variety of different patterns to challenge, with some being noticeably easier to clear than others.
Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire has eight different pretty girls to challenge, each of whom have between three and five stages to clear, each of which consists of three rounds, all with different arrangements. In total, there are well over a hundred puzzles to clear, some of which are utterly fiendish, so there’s certainly plenty to get your teeth into here.
The titular pretty girls themselves are mostly drawn from other titles in Zoo Corporation’s back catalogue and are the work of prolific artist Ayase Hazuki, a regular contributor to Zoo’s titles. Pretty much every “taste” is catered to in one form or another; there’s a redhead tsundere, a demure maid-type, a shy girl, a determined blonde, a twintailed “little sister” type, a mature “mom” type and a horned devil girl, plus a secret character for when you clear all the previous stages. The final round of each of the girls’ stages sees them gradually transform into a new outfit — here any fetishes that aren’t already covered by the character archetypes are addressed, with everything from catgirls to nurse outfits and “naked aprons” on display — with the eventual goal of the whole game being to collect all the different possible appearances of all the girls.
That’s pretty much all there is to it. There’s no plot to speak of, so no real opportunity to truly get to know the girls beyond the things they squeal and moan at you during gameplay — a bit of a shame, particularly after Frontwing’s excellent Purino Party proved you can have a lightweight, fluffy story and brain-frying puzzles in the same game — but the artwork is certainly very appealing, the puzzles are challenging but fair and the music sounds like something late ’90s era Namco would have included in one of their games.
In other words, there’s a lot to like here — though do note that despite the source material a lot of the pretty girls come from, there’s no actual explicit content in this game, and no 18+ patch either. Hardly a dealbreaker — and indeed, the store page describes it as “a puzzle game with sexy characters but no nudity” — but it’s worth knowing what to expect before you go in.
As a simple, casual and fun puzzle game, Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire is hard to beat in terms of value. And, pleasingly in this age of deliberately unbalanced puzzle games on social media platforms and mobile devices, its incredibly low asking price doesn’t hide manipulative free-to-play-style mechanics such as energy bars, purchasable powerups or in-game currency; it simply is what it is, nothing more, nothing less.
Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire is available now for Windows and Mac computers via Steam.
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