Ishido: The Way of Stones

Grade:  B

Ranking in Sega Genesis Top 50: 37th

Publisher:  Accolade

Year:  1990

Genre:  Stones

Ishido is a great little puzzle game in which you place different colored tiles on a grid.  I assure you this is more exciting than it sounds.  Each tile has one of six designs on it, and the rule is that if two tiles are touching, they must share either the same color or design.  Where it gets tricky is that to place a tile on the board so that it is touching 2 different tiles, you can’t just, say, put a red one in between two other reds.  It must be the same color as one, but have the same design as the other.  The more sides you match on, the more points you get, with a big bonus for the elusive 4-way (color match on two sides, design match on the other two).  As the board fills up and you run out of spaces with open sides, things get trickier, and the game eventually ends when there are no more allowable spaces to place tiles or, if you’re a lot better than us, you manage to place all of your tiles.  Man, I wish I knew another word for tiles.

Obviously this isn’t an easy concept to express, so when it came time to market this game, Accolade wanted some box art that properly conveyed the subtle strategy and high-minded nature of the game:

Alright, so not too shabby.  The guy sitting alone kind of illustrates the idea that this is sort of like an alternate version of solitaire, and the robes and white beard make him appear to be old and wise.  In fact, it almost seems to say that this is exactly the kind of game a wizard would enjoy playing during his spare time. I don’t know any wizards, so I cannot verify the accuracy of such a claim, but it does seem feasible.  I am a little concerned about the glowing eyes and the fact that he appears to be melting, though – maybe Ishido is radioactive?  That would explain why Sega didn’t give it a Seal of Approval.  Although that more likely that it has something to do with the sticker in the corner which indicates that the game may not work with your Genesis (for what its worth, it worked on ours). At least you get a “special price” for that inconvenience.  Overall, I’d say this is a good box.

Of course, some versions of the game fared better than others.  When it was time to release the game on the Atari Lynx, things became significantly more awesome, which I believe this is the only time those words have ever been written in regard to the Atari Lynx:

What… the hell?

Holy shit!  Or melting wizard guy has been replaced by a bikini-and-cape wearing sorceress with 80s hair magically whipping the tiles at you.  This my friends, is how you market a puzzle game.  Or any kind of game for that matter.  Now I know some of you purists out there will argue this isn’t a good box since the actual game doesn’t feature the girl.  Or the 80s hair.  Or the “projec-tiles”.  But that sounds more like a flaw with the game than the box, doesn’t it?.  Admittedly, whoever bought this game would have been pretty disappointed by the lack of such things, but it’s not like the one guy who bought games for the Atari Lynx wasn’t already used to being disappointed by them anyway.  At least this time he got a cool box out of the deal.

Alright, I apologize for going on a 300 word tangent about box art.  I guess I don’t really have a lot to say about making tiles match.  Maybe I haven’t been married long enough or something.  That’s what married people do, right?  Pick out matching tiles?  Anyway, the point is, Ishido really is a fun game.  Don’t believe me?  Check it out for yourself.  For free.  Here’s a link to a flash version of Ishido that you can play right now.  Or for those you you who prefer to install things and run them later, you can also download the PC or Mac versions of Ishido for free from the website of one of the the programmers.

By the way, one of the guys who made Ishido has a website where he talks about his experiences working on the game (he was only 17 at the time!), as well as his other projects since then.  How cool is that?

One thing worth noting about Ishido is that it’s an original concept.  A lot of people mistake it for Mahjong or some other tile game, and while there was probably an influence, Ishido is it’s own thing, not the Genesis version of some popular board game.  Maybe it’s just me, but I find it pretty impressive that so many people who have played Ishido make that mistake. It’s not easy to make people believe something is an ancient game, translated into digital form, when its really just something that sprang from the mind of some guy in California during the late 80s.  What I’m saying is that nobody ever plays Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine and assumes it’s a tradition passed on to us from the Han Dynasty.

Ishido was an early Genesis game, and not immensely popular, which means that copies can be found for just a couple of bucks.  Normally, I’d call that quite a bargain, but since you could also just play the flash version for free online, I guess it really depends on who you are.  Just looking for a fun game?  Play the flash version .  Genny enthusiast?  Definitely buy a copy.  Aficionado of video game boxes?  Well, go with the Lynx version, obviously.

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