Review: AcChen

AcChen, like Mahjong solitaire, features a puzzle board containing various layouts and patterns of stacked tiles with different symbols on them, which must be matched in like pairs in order to systematically remove them and ultimately clear the entire board. The slight change here is that tiles can only be matched if a line can be drawn connecting the two with no more than two right angle turns. Obviously there also can’t be any other tiles blocking direct line of sight.

A connection line flashes when you successfully complete a match, but before that it’s up to you to visualize how a line will be drawn between two tiles before making selections. Fortunately there is no time or score penalty for clicking tiles that can’t connect, other than the honk of a disgusting buzzer that your ears will thank you for avoiding as often as possible. Puzzles come with up to three layers of tiles stacked on top of each other (and they’re color coded to help with identification). Tiles from a higher layer can connect to any tile from a lower level, even if they are not open or exposed as in Mahjong solitaire. Only tiles on the same layer block one another.

The game offers a sizeable 60 puzzles in all, building in complexity and scale at a smooth difficulty curve. Sometimes the puzzle logic can be a tad unfair, with matching tiles stacked on top of each other, which are impossible to predict unless you’re gifted with the mystical foresight of Carnac the Magnificent. Thankfully special Yin Yang tiles are provided and, when matched, allow you to immediately eliminate all tiles of one symbol from the board. It’s best to save any Yin Yang matches on the table in case you get caught in a bad spot. Connecting a Yin Yang pair as the final match of a puzzle comes in handy as well, the effect carrying over so you can get a head start on the forthcoming puzzle by clearing out one symbol right off the bat.

Two modes are available to appeal to players of different interests. The main single player mode plays with the mentality of an arcade game, including a time limit on each stage, as well as a scoring system that allows you to build a cumulative high score to post on the global Steam leaderboard. (Not to brag, but I’m currently ranked #1. Out of a whopping 16 registered players.) Failing to finish within the alloted time or running out of matches restarts the puzzle and resets your score.

While there isn’t a full-on combo multiplier system, successive matches are rewarded based on speed. Consecutive matches within five seconds count for two points, while matches made within three seconds net four points. Any remaining time at the end is added to your score as a bonus. Every once in a while a tile will be marked with an animated hourglass, and if you can match it before it disappears a time bonus of 15 precious seconds will be added to the puzzle clock.

Speaking of bonuses, one of three bonus levels occurs every few puzzles. These bonus puzzles include a classic game of Memory where you have to turn over face-down tiles and find the matching pairs by memorizing their locations as you go; a variation on Memory where two tiles flash in different locations before disappearing, and you have to click their last locations to match; and a puzzle in which every matched pair adds four more tiles to the board, the goal being to form matches until the whole screen is completely filled rather than emptied. Successfully completing a bonus stage rewards you with a hint token–they automatically identify an available match, but you can hold only three at a time–as well as extra points to your score. The bonus stages can be skipped, should you just want to proceed through the normal puzzles.

For casual, relaxed play, there’s also a Chill mode, which ditches the timer and scoring system, so you can match tiles at a leisurely pace and have fun without any form of time crunch pressure. The only catch to Chill mode is the inability to advance through the full puzzle progression. Only puzzles that have first been unlocked in the arcade mode are added to the Chill puzzle rotation.

A major flaw that is in need of patching is a bug that renders the 60th stage unplayable, so technically speaking the game cannot be completed 100% in its current state. When the last puzzle loads, nothing appears but blank tiles and 10 seconds on the clock, without any way to match and clear the board and thus finish the game. As an OCD completionist, it’s been annoying sitting here for three weeks unable to complete the game for the final achievement. The developer’s said that the bug has been found and a fix is incoming, but it hasn’t appeared as of yet.

Another small quibble is with the PC version not featuring the hot seat multiplayer Battle Mode offered in the game’s iOS counterpart. That’d be a nice extra to have, for players who enjoy local multiplayer competition. It seems odd not to have it included considering the PC version is the pricier model.

I don’t know what the meaning of the title AcChen is supposed to be, but as a game it is a fun casual puzzler with familiar Mahjong solitaire tile matching tweaked by a faster arcade pacing and some subtle rule variations. The game’s color palette doesn’t exactly pop on the screen with a lot of pizazz or fine detail, but the tile symbols are drawn with at least some level of charm. However, for added variety, it sure would have been great to have more than two tile sets. If only I could combine AcChen‘s gameplay and modes with the gorgeous tile art and table environments of baKno’s MahJong. Now that would be the perfect tile-matcher.

TryIt

Pros:
+ Fun arcade twist on Mahjong solitaire and Memory
+ Offers both timed and relaxed modes
+ 60 puzzles provides substantial play time

Cons:
– Broken final stage (though hopefully an update is coming soon)
– Some frustrating tile stacking logic
– Only two tile sets; overall dull color palette

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PC, also on iOS
Publisher: Stefan Preuss
Developer: Stefan Preuss
Release Date: 12/20/2017
Genre: Puzzle
Players: 1

Source: Steam code for AcChen was provided to VGBlogger.com for review consideration.

Buy From: Steam for $3.99, iOS App Store for $1.99, and Mac App Store for $2.99.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!