Computers make good opponents for classic tabletop games, and have done since the earliest days of the 2600.
They get on with their turns rather than checking their phones or talking about the football (although 2600 board games on the hardest difficulty warn they may take up to 20 minutes to make a decision about their next move, which is almost as bad as my friend Sam deciding whether or not he wants to build the Well in Agricola) and they’re able to provide a reasonable challenge for both beginners and masters in a variety of disciplines.
Today, then, we look at an entry in Atari’s “Mindgames” range for ST: it’s Go-Moku/Renju, two very similar “five in a row” games very loosely based on classic Chinese game Go.
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Any time you undertake a project like this, you have to accept that some elements of it are just going to be less of a “spectator sport” than others.
Such is the case with today’s Atari ST game, the not-much-to-look-at-but-fun-to-play Shanghai by Activision, an adaptation of Mahjong Solitaire that makes use of the ST’s built-in graphical user interface GEM as the foundation of its aesthetic. This was not at all an unusual approach back in the day, and is akin to more modern PC games running on Windows 95 and beyond making use of a windowed interface and standardised Windows controls. Not the most beautiful look, no, but perfectly functional — and a lot more intuitive to those who perhaps don’t play a lot of games.
Compared to more recent adaptations of Mahjong Solitaire, Shanghai is fairly limited, but it nonetheless remains a pleasingly relaxing, Zen sort of experience. Once you figure out how to read the screen properly, that is…
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