Turtlemania is a physical embodiment of the very popular solitaire version of a Mahjong game which is not Mahjong at all, but a game played with Mahjong tiles.

It’s a beautifully made game, using 136 colorfully embossed black plastic tiles that are pure pleasure to touch and click together and shuffle around on the table top. The tiles are packed in two layers in a special tray. This is then housed in a tight-fitting plastic sleeve. Turn the tray over, place it on the table, and carefully slide the tray out of the plastic sleeve, and you wind-up with something very much like a computer Mahjong array.

The manufacturers suggest that kids as young as 6 can play this game. We’ve found that though younger kids may be conceptually able to do so, the amount of control and dexterity required to set the game up and play with the wonderfully slippery, thick plastic tiles makes the game much more appropriate for kids older than 10. For these kids, it is wonderfully appropriate. Since they’ve played the game on the computer, they immediately understand how the game is played.

It is almost a purely visual game, the object being to find pairs of exactly matching shapes. Note the word “exactly” – for therein lies much of the excitement of this puzzle. Some of the tiles are subtly different from each other. Careful observation is required. Additional care must be taken to observe which tiles are available for play.

The physical set turns out to be actually more fun than its computer cousin. The feel, the ease of seeing the layout, the appeal of having all those tiles to play with. And playing with two or more people (as opposed to by yourself) is still more fun. Major, oddly enough, FUN.

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