It’s one in the morning, and I’m still playing Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire on the bedroom TV. As if speaking in code, my wife repeatedly bellows out seemingly nonsensical statements like “Three! Owl! Sword! Squiggly-wiggly! Bamboo!” and my addled brain instinctively translates them to on-screen action as one of the titular Pretty Girls giggles suggestively.
Suddenly, “NO MORE PICK!” and it’s all over. Or is it? A simple tap of the A button and we’re trying again… sleep is for the weak, after all.
Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire, the second fruit of the new partnership between localiser-publisher eastasiasoft and Zoo Corporation after the Qix and Gals Panic-inspired Bishoujo Battle Cyber Panic, has now hit the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. And a game I already loved in its original PC incarnation has now become the ultimate gaming comfort food, because thanks to its Switch release I can take it anywhere and enjoy it whenever I want. And I most certainly do that.
For the unfamiliar, mahjong solitaire (sometimes known as Shanghai solitaire, or simply Shanghai) is a matching puzzle in which the tiles used to play the considerably more complicated game of mahjong are laid out in a specific arrangement on the table, and you need to remove all of them.
In order to remove tiles, there are two prerequisites: firstly, you need to match them in pairs, and secondly, both tiles must be “free”, which means they can be slid out of the arrangement sideways without disturbing any other tiles. That is everything you need to know in order to play mahjong solitaire in general — and Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire only adds a few additional mechanics atop that.
Firstly, in Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire, you’re against the clock. The time limits are fairly generous — and you get a bit of time back with every match you make — but you can’t afford to spend too much time staring blankly at the arrangement in the hopes of something jumping out at you.
Secondly, Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire features a scoring system and online leaderboards. You score points for making matches, with more points awarded in a “combo” system for matches made in rapid succession. You also get a time bonus at the end of each round, meaning for the best scores you’ll need to be quick and efficient about clearing the board.
One thing to note about mahjong solitaire is that the random nature of how the tiles are dealt means that some arrangements are inherently unwinnable — if two tiles you need to match are stacked on top of each other, for example, you’ll never be able to match them together.
This fact caused a certain amount of frustration among the PC players of Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire on its original release, so the developers at Zoo Corporation added an optional “Easy” mode, in which the scoring, time and combo systems are removed and replaced with a limited number of “hints” — which highlight a possible match you can make right now — and “shuffles”, which rearrange the remaining tiles on the board in order to make it more likely a match is possible.
There’s no penalty for playing in this mode other than being unable to submit your scores to the online leaderboards, so if you prefer a more sedate puzzling experience, the option is there.
The titular “Pretty Girls” are all drawn from various erotic visual novels that Zoo Corporation has put out over the years under their Norn, Miel, Cybele and Yumesta labels. When Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire was first released, none of these had come west, but in more recent years a company called Cherry Kiss Games (NSFW link!) has started to localise them, so the characters may be a little more familiar to some players.
That said, there is no narrative content in Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire whatsoever, so there’s no need to know who these characters are beyond what they look like — they’re pure eye-candy, and they provide a reward for clearing the third round of each stage in the game by gradually changing into a new costume — with said costumes getting increasingly lewd as you progress through the game.
The girls themselves are the work of prolific erotic artist Ayase Hazuki, and cover a variety of popular fetishes including bunny girls, devil girls, cute flat-chested girls, tsunderes and what the Internet, I’m told, colloquially refers to as “big mommy milkers”, but I wouldn’t know anything about that sort of thing.
It’s worth noting that there’s no actual explicit content in the game — there wasn’t in the PC version either, despite the characters’ origins in various nukige titles — and the sauciest the game gets is someone covering all their naughty bits in soap bubbles, or the aforementioned big mommy milkers spilling out of the side of the long-beloved “naked apron” trope.
Beyond the visuals, the game features an excellent soundtrack drawn from a variety of music producers who ply their trade online, including Dova Syndrome, Music Atelier Amacha and MusMus. While not composed specifically for the game in many cases, the tracks are well-chosen; each character has their own distinctive style of music that feels very much in keeping with what little we see of their personality from their visuals and vocalisations — and the final round of each stage is accompanied by an astonishingly catchy ’80s-style beat that Stock, Aitken and Waterman would be proud of.
Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire is a fun game — nothing more, nothing less. It is, as noted above, pure comfort food — something you can fire up when you just want to play a game to engage your brain a little bit, but you don’t want to immerse yourself in something complicated or narrative-heavy. The nature of mahjong solitaire means that it’s far from a mindless experience, and the dopamine hit from finally unlocking a new costume after several failed attempts is undeniable.
The result is an addictive game that is always a genuine delight to play — with the Switch version playing particularly well in touchscreen handheld mode with a nice stylus. I suspect this will be a permanent fixture on my Switch’s SD card — at least until eastasiasoft announces some sort of Zoo Corporation compilation on a Switch cartridge, hmm?
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