Jun 21, 2011


In the board game community one of the game classifications is "dexterity game". Jenga clearly falls under this class of game. And recently Jenga earned a special place in my heart when it became the first game that requires some thought that I could actually play an intelligent and competitive game of against my 4 year old. So how do we translate a game that requires the infinite precision of touch that our hands and fingers grant us to a digital touch screen device? Well, my first answer is "we don't", but apparently someone felt different about such a response. My second answer is "we shouldn't".

First, whenever I run Jenga I actually have to run it twice. The first time I see a logo from Natural Motion along with some music. I then have to exit back to home screen and run it again and then it somehow works and I make it to the title screen. This behavior has been consistent (on my Eee Transformer tablet). I'm going to guess that it works on some devices just fine and doesn't on others with behavior like that. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy the game enough to try it on my Android phone. However, given the touch screen interface that the game employs I just don't see how my phone's screen would be big enough to derive enjoyment out of this title, but I am getting ahead of myself.

The game features a couple of play modes... traditional Jenga in a solo mode, an arcade (time based) mode, and pass and play. When playing you can do one of two things: 1) tap a block to see if it's loose or 2) hold and drag a block to remove it. Now, my harshness of a review against this title is primarily because IT'S NOTHING LIKE REAL JENGA! It shouldn't be called Jenga. How this is racking up an average 4 star review in the market place is either beyond me or it's because people that have never played real Jenga love it (for whatever the reason). In real Jenga a good part of the thrill is in taking advantage of physical differences of the blocks that create imbalances where there's no pressure on some blocks aloiwing them to be easily slid out. In the computer adaptation such blocks are few and far between and it seems that almost every block has at least a small effect on the tower. Perhaps the game's physics is too perfect? In real Jenga after enough blocks have been removed the tower will lean ever so slightly. I never experienced that with the digital version. In other words, trying to digitize an experience that relies on imperfections of the blocks along with my incredibly sensitive hands and then taking that and converting it to two actions is missing something and perhaps everything. Ok, enough about this not being Jenga... let's pretend they didn't call it Jenga and instead called it j3n64 (I didn't make that up... they did) to continue the review.

The graphics are good enough and accomplish what they are supposed to. You can easily navigate up and down the tower as well as flip it around to gain access to both sides of each block. The touch interface basically works although I did have minor inaccuracies when I would touch and the game would disagree with me as to which block I had selected, but the game highlights the selected block to ensure that I don't actually proceed with a mistake. Given how the instructions say the touch interface is supposed to work it is spot on and works pretty well.

qrcodeDexterity games are tough to pull off on a digital platform. For what it's worth I find the various attempts at Skee Ball clones to be dull (although my four year old seems to enjoy them). That said, Jenga for me is a big miss. If I had to rate it for being Jenga like then it would be a 1 star game, but I'll try and normalize it and give it 2.5 stars. I just think there are far better games to play such as some of the block balancing games that are in a similar genre and X Construction (another physics building game) also comes to mind. And I'm a bit stunned to make the connection that this is from the same company that did the excellent Backbreaker Football. All I can say is buy that instead. 2.5 stars.

1 comment:

  1. Keep up the good work! Easily the best android game blog around.

    Any news on any new kairosoft games?