Review: Mau Mau
Following on from my mental note that “Uno is a bit like Mau Mau” in my review of the Gameloft HD game, here comes Lonely Cat Games with Mau Mau for Symbian! The gameplay is similar (by design) but does Mau Mau have a trump card to help it stand out against the colourful competitor? [editor's note: this was one of my favourite S60 games back in the day - give it a chance!]
A quick recap. Unlike Uno, Mau Mau plays with two standard 52-card decks of playing cards, and each player’s goal is to discard all the cards in their hand. You can play one card per turn on top of the discard pile if either the number or the suit matches, otherwise you have to draw a card from the stock pile.
There are rule variants on top of this basic method – play a 7 and the next player has to pick up two cards and skip a turn, 8 is next player misses a turn, a Jack lets you change the suit and an Ace changes the direction of play.
With no option to vary what the bonus cards do, Mau Mau focuses on the core gameplay to make a good game. Rather than an abstract view of the players, you are at the table, and can see your opponents and the backs of the cards, with a handy red dot by the player whose turn it is.
I also like that, rather than two black and two red suits, the colours have been tweaked to red, blue, green and mustard-y yellow (a trick that Las Vegas casinos use as well to quickly tell suits apart). A small touch but one that helps many areas of the user interface.
Selecting your card actually sees the return of double-tap to Symbian, one tap to select the card (by pushing it up in your hand) and another to confirm your choice. In a game, this is a forgiving system, as you then always have the chance to check your move before you play it.
As noted, there’s no real change in the game – you can either collect the points of your opponents if you win a round to try and get 100 points (that’s the classic game) or play 'challenge', where you score what’s left in your hand at the end of each game and be the last to 100 points. It’s subtly different, and means you can play against 3, 2 or a single opponent, but Mau Mau sticks to the main rule set. It makes the game easier to start, but long term, there is a touch more longevity in the tweaks made available in Uno.
Here comes the interesting choice though – would I go for Mau Mau or Uno from Gameloft? To be honest I think Uno would shade it, but I would point out that this is more because we have the Uno card game at home, and there’s a certain familiarity with that (and the kids would not be happy if I deleted Uno from the N8), so do bear that in mind.
Mau Mau provides a challenge, looks good visually, and is easy to play. I think I’ll keep both on my smartphone, for a simple reason. Uno only plays in landscape and Mau Mau will happily play in either. Uno has more options and slicker presentation, while Mau Mau is more traditional and focussed. Which would you prefer?
-- Ewan Spence, Feb 2011.
Published by Ewan Spence at 13:49 UTC, February 15th