GShisen  ***
Freeware by Kelvin Sherlock
requires System 6.0.1 running on 1.25MB or larger Apple IIgs
   an accelerator board is recommended

     Like the West's playing cards, the beautiful tiles of China's Mahjongg just naturally inspire many uses. Thanks to Activision, one such application, Shanghai, has entertained us for countless hours since its release back in 1986. Battling the game's Dragon formations is a fine challenge; but, many dedicated players have, long ago, put away their cyber tiles. It is time for a new kind of formation and a new twist for the old challenge. So ... how about a nice game of Shisen?!

     Shisen, or, more correctly, "Shisen-Sho", uses all or most of the 144-piece tile set. This can be the traditional Mahjongg design or, in GShisen, something new. As in Shanghai, you begin with a randomly generated arrangement and your goal is to clear the board of all tiles by matching and removing pairs. In Shisen, though, the tiles are formed into a single large rectangle.


     Sherlock's application includes the "Standard" set shown above and an "Alphabet" set. So far there is at least one new user-created design, "Nuggets" which appears below in the move examples pics. The player can switch tile sets at any time during a game.

     Dimensions of the game rectangle vary from implementation to implementation. The Shisen done for the K Desktop Environment presents a 14 x 10 pattern. As shown above, GShisen places all 144 tiles-- four each of 36 figures-- in an 18 x 8 rectangle. Along the bottom of the screen you have elapsed playing time, Game Number, games won/games attempted, and number of tiles left on the board. When the first tile of a pair is selected its place darkens and a copy appears on the bottom of the screen to remind you which tile needs to be matched.

     Most likely, you've already guessed that Shisen's rules for matching and removing tiles are different from Shanghai's. In Shisen, creating matches depends upon making connections.


     You can remove any two identical tiles which can be connected by an imaginary line which does not pass through any other tile. The catch is that the line must have no more than three horizontal or vertical segments. So, any two identical tiles on a side-- like the Six-Blue-Spot tiles in the full screen pic-- are an 'obvious' match. As shown in the Game C pic, distance does not matter.

     Since all of this is happening on your GS, you just need to click tiles. The computer checks to see that a connection is possible. If it is, your GS draws the line, there's a THOOP sound, and the tiles disappear.

     Of course,  you can connect tiles using fewer than three segments. The side by side Five-Brown-Spot tiles in Game A could be clicked and removed. In Game C, a two-segment connect would get rid of the Knight tiles once that pesky Apple tile is gone; but, alas, the Apple tiles can not yet be connected. Happily, you discover that once the Two-Diamond tiles are gone, the Beetle tiles will go, and, then, a three-segment connect will take care of the Knights!

     Such are your concerns when taking on Shisen. As in Shanghai, Operation Lambda, Soko Ban, and other addictive logic games, the 'hook' is getting to stretch your mind in mastering a new skill. Exactly what the skill might be is unclear, though, evidently, it involves enhancing certain visualization and planning capabilities. Beyond this, about all one can say is that becoming expert feels good. Cracking a Shisen pattern, clearing the board, and winning is, definitely, fun!

     As might be expected in a program offering 34,463 randomly generated patterns, not every game is winnable. (In some 60-70 games, I've found three-- 4096, 4162, 3458-- which seem to be for-sure no-win patterns.)  At first, my reaction was something like "No fair!" On the other hand, not being sure of winnability adds a touch of suspense; and, each claim of a no-win is sure to attract players looking for a way to crack the uncrackable pattern.

     GShisen starts with a 'randomly' selected game; but, you are free to end play and load any game you like by just entering its number. For tough, yet still winnable, challenges try 1973, 2432, 4095, or 25064.

     Your official reward for victory is getting a shot at having your Name and Time saved in the top ten Hall of Fame roster. Though having such a roster is a plus, limiting it to just the ten best times does not make sense. Since some patterns are considerably easier than others, the best times are going to be for the weakest challenges. The victories of which you are most proud may never be listed. A much better scheme would be to record best Time and Name for each pattern.

     GShisen comes with a docs file which explains game play and describes System requirements. An accelerator board is recommended mainly because it enables access to an automatic check for valid plays after each match. If the this feature is not active, you must click Check Moves, Suggest Move, or Show Matches in order to have the computer check that a valid play is available. When playing a difficult pattern, having the Auto Check is very nice indeed!  Otherwise, GShisen executes fine on an unaccelerated IIgs.

     Rendered in colorful 640 mode super-res, Kelvin Sherlock's GShisen is as attractive and smooth-running as it is addictive. If your fingers have been itching for the touch of cyber tiles, this is your game. Just be sure to carve out a few hours before starting. To paraphrase the old potato chip commercial: "No one can play just one!"

Rubywand, 1998

*** is a rating of "Very Good"

You can download GShisen from the A2-Delphi archive; for more info, check ...

You can download the new GShisen "Nuggets" tile set from the Asimov-GS archive at ... .

You can download a 'game fix' patch for the GShisen Hall of Fame prompts from the Asimov-GS archive at ...