Jenga, the well-known block-stacking game, has been brought to the iDevice by Natural Motion and is now available from the app store. While we were initially skeptical that a game like Jenga could translate to a mobile device, we were pleasantly surprised by the final product.
- Classic and Action play modes
- Terrific physics engine for realistic gameplay
- Serene music and relaxing environment
- Global leaderboards
- Touchy control issues
- Lack of tactile sensation gives a flat feeling
Jenga offers both Classic and Arcade game modes, as well as Pass ‘n’ Play multiplayer. Classic allows you to play the game as you remember, removing blocks from lower layers and stacking on top of the teetering tower until it eventually topples. Shouting “Jenga” when it does is left up to the gamer. The goal is to build the highest tower possible. Arcade mode utilizes color-coded blocks, offering bonuses for completing layers of a single color, pulling off combos for big points, and collecting coins for removing blocks. The coins can be used to purchase special boost powers, such as adding time, increasing your combo, and rewinding time to uncollapse a tower.
Obviously, there is a significant difference between the tactile sensation you get when playing the actual game as opposed to using a touchscreen interface. There is no way to feel the weight of the tower as you try to loosen a block on the iDevice. You can see the tower shift and torque when you try to move a weight-bearing block, though it’s not always very clear depending on your perspective. To aid the player in determining which blocks are easily removed and which shouldn’t be attempted, Jenga uses a color-coded system. Tapping on a block selects it and brackets the visible side with white, pink, or red color. White blocks can be removed easily and without much change to the structure. Pink blocks can be removed, but are more difficult to do so without shifting the tower a bit. Red blocks are likely to cause you to shout Jenga if you go after one.
Moving the blocks can be quite a challenge, too. Once selected, tapping on a block will push it in the direction that you tap. Alternatively, you can hold your finger on a piece until you sort of latch on and drag your finger away from the tower to pull it out the side. While this works better than we expected, the lack of those important sensory inputs leaves us with a bit of a flat feeling. Once the block is out, it hovers over the top of the tower. A tap will quickly place it or you can drag it into position. We did have some issues with tapping on the same block repeatedly, as the game would often get confused and switch the focus to another block nearby. However, for a first attempt at a game that we never would have imagined seeing on the iDevice, they pretty well nailed it.
Graphically, the game has a nice look about it. There are two backgrounds, with the second locked at the start. The default has you playing on a wooden table in a living area. The wood grains in the blocks and the furniture around the room give the game some character. The lake outside and the background music give the game a serene, relaxing feel. The block movements and weight shifts feel very realistic, and it’s a lot of fun to watch the block spill over onto the table. The best part: no mess to clean up.
Replay value is good if you can learn to deal with the control quirkiness. There are leaderboards to compare your best heights/times and scores with players around the world. The Pass ‘n’ Play multiplayer is fun if you have someone else to play with, but online multiplayer would be a huge boost to the game. Weighing in at $2.99, we felt it was a worthwhile price for a unique offering that does a great job of translating most aspects of the game to a mobile device. Jenga is a 4-Dimple nostalgia blast with great potential.