Venice Mystery is a new casual game from Gamgo Games that puts a new twist on mahjong. An oracle once foretold that the city of Venice would flood, destroying its treasures and devastating the people. A number of great thinkers gathered and created plans for a Doomsday machine that could save the city from destruction. Time passed, and the plans for the device were lost. When the Venice began to flood the people knew their only hope lay in the machine lost in legend.
Each puzzle in Venice Mystery plays out like a game of mahjong with a few unique twists. Instead of clicking identical tile pairs at random, you choose from a small menu of tile types, then click matching tiles on the playing field. The more tiles you eliminate each round, the more points you get. To complete the puzzle you must unearth a set number of keys buried beneath the piles of blocks.
Power-ups in Venice Mystery add a nice bit of spice to the game. Some allow you to blast sets of tiles with a click of the mouse, while others let you peer beneath the piles at the keys hidden below or even swap tiles in your inventory or on the playing field.
Every few levels Venice Mystery drops a mini-game-style puzzle in your lap that help propel the story forward. The first presents you with a scroll that outlines a portion of the Doomsday machine plans. A series of Roman numerals are written on the page and you must match them to the clock device on the screen. Easy! The second mini-game presents you with a lost painting and several small pieces of the image rearranged at the bottom of the screen. Rotate the pieces and place them where they belong to win.
Analysis: The gameplay in Venice Mystery is quite captivating and manages to put a new spin on a very old game. The storyline is just as gripping and will probably be the first thing that really steals your attention. Unfortunately, Venice Mystery doesn't integrate the story and gameplay into a complete product, leaving the plot to take a nap in the backseat for most of the journey. The short intro really ramps up the mystery element, but once you're in the game it's little more than tile matching and Roman numeral clicking. Pity, as successfully bringing a Da Vinci Code-style story to this kind of game would be intriguing.
Also worth noting: tile patterns. Some mahjong games use distinct tiles that are easy to tell apart, while others employ intricate drawings that are barely discernable from other patterns. Venice Mystery uses the latter. On the one hand it makes for a more beautiful game, but on the other the gameplay suffers from the ambiguity. I found myself scouring the game screen trying to find every 'inside-out blue clover thing with little fluffies in the corners' many times. They look good, of course, but aren't as functional as they could be.
Despite its few minor flaws, Venice Mystery is an addictive and challenging casual game. The mahjong-style puzzles are fun to complete and the power-ups and mini-games add just enough spice to make it work.