1-? players, horizontal game
Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx
Once again, the Lynx travels to the Orient to get inspiration for a strategy game. This time it is ISHIDO: THE WAY OF STONES, a conversion of a home computer title. You are given a set of 72 tiles, each marked with a specific color and figure. The stones are presented one at a time, and you place them on a board with 90 slots, next to other matching pieces. The more matches made, the better your score. If you play good enough, the Oracle may appear and impar some of its wisdom.
ISHIDO's rules are simple, yet not immediately obvious. The basic idea of matching tiles is enhanced with restrictions on the types of matches possible. But in return for learning the rules, ISHIDO offers a deeply complex and challenging experience. Tiles are matched by color and figure, with the elusive four-match being the best play (match two by color and another two by figure). The game is "won" by making the highest score possible, but you will quickly find other goals to achieve, such as using all the tiles or scoring four-matches around the starting board.
ISHIDO also offers several variants and options. Scoring can be either the "ancient" method, where only four-matches have value, or the "modern" way, where all matches score. Games can be played solitare, alternating with a computer or human opponent, or as a tournament against any number of players. During the game, you may take back moves, ask for legal moves, and view the stones remaining. Other options allow you to select the tile set to use, and set a time limit for moves.
An interesting extra is the Oracle of the Stones. Make a four-match, and the Oracle will offer a piece of "ancient wisdom". These are excerpts of insightful thinking, similar to the writings of the I Ching, and the player is asked to apply them to his innermost questions. In the end, it is harmless fun, though you can turn the Oracle off if it proves distracting.
The graphics and sound in ISHIDO are total contrasts. Visually, the game is stunning, with beautiful imagery everywhere from the opening fireworks to the glimmer of a four-match. Sounds are also appealing, but are at a minimum; the primary game sound is the click made as each tile is placed.
ISHIDO: THE WAY OF STONES is proof that a game does not need many rules to be sophisticated. The concept is simple, yet each new move offers a wealth of possibilities to be explored, making this a perfect entry for the deep-thinking strategist.
GAMEPLAY: 8 GRAPHICS: 10 SOUND: 7 OVERALL: 8