Jenga World Tour DS
Published by: Atari
Developed by: Atomic Planet Entertainment
Release Date: Out Now
Over the years there have been quite a few board games that have been turned into videogames. Old favourites such as Monopoly, Risk, Scrabble etc., have been done several times over with varying degrees of success; while some haven't been attempted yet. I honestly can't recall seeing a videogame version of Jenga before. In some respects this is understandable. After all Jenga is one of those games that is as simple as can be because of the enjoyment you can get from playing with friends and family. Watching the facial expressions of your opponents when they manage to make the tower of blocks fall over is one of the key ingredients of the game. It's intangible qualities such as this, which have made Jenga such a popular game. The problem of course is that you can't replicate this in a videogame.
Jenga World Tour offers four modes of play. World Tour allows you to play a series of matches against AI opponents in various themed environments. Quick Play allows you to play a quick game against human or AI (or a mix of both) opponents. Arcade mode is where you'll play solo and attempt to progress your tower to the highest level. You're unlikely to get the opportunity to play the Multiplayer mode. The game does support multiplayer gaming (for two players) but it requires that you both have a copy of the game. Surely it wouldn't have been difficult to have included a single-card multiplayer variant? You can play a multiplayer game using the same DS with up to three other players, which is something I suppose. The game doesn't support the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service however so you won't be able to play against fellow Jenga fans from around the world.
As most will know, Jenga is a really simple game. You have a tower of wooden blocks and the idea is to take a block from the lower part of the tower and then place the block at the top of the tower. You do this in turns with your fellow players until the tower eventually tumbles. Jenga World Tour adds a few extras to make the experience a little more involving. There are a variety of events such as UFO's that zap blocks, trebuchets that hurl rocks at your tower and slowly weaken it and power-ups that can alter natural flow of the game. Some modes allow you to temporarily pin two blocks into place to make it easier to pull a block out. It's also possible to have three hints in a game to show you which blocks would be safer to move.
The presentation of Jenga World Tour is actually quite good. You'll hold the DS like a book (as you do with the Brain Training games) and move the camera with the directional pad. The game does cater for southpaws and if you are left-handed you'll hold the DS the other way around and use the A, B, X, and Y buttons to control the camera. As you pull a block out of the tower, a meter will indicate whether you're being cautious or reckless. This meter is a nice inclusion as it's impossible to get a feel for minor movements in the tower (which would indicate the same thing) that you would get in a real game of Jenga. The blocks can be 'tapped' or 'dragged' out with the stylus in a pretty natural fashion. Graphically, Jenga World Tour is best described as functional. The small DS screens don't really allow for a great view so you'll find yourself rotating the camera quite a lot in order to get an acceptable view.
Jenga World Tour is fine for deaf gamers. There is some speech that isn't subtitled. When you first load the game a voice says "Welcome to Jenga." When the block tower eventually falls you'll get a "Timber!" or something similar. None of these omissions are important. All of the information you need to play the game is displayed visually. If there's one criticism I have it's that the game doesn't have a tutorial. Sure Jenga is a simple game to play but there is no in-game tutorial to explain the additional features that Jenga World Tour adds to the Jenga formula or how the controls works. The game manual isn't much help either.
For the most part Jenga World Tour is a decent game the problem with it really comes down to its price. The real Jenga can be bought for around £6.99 whereas Jenga World Tour costs £19.99. Sure Jenga World Tour offers AI opposition and some novel game-play twists but it can't fully mimic the physics and enjoyment of the real game. Personally I don't think there's enough here for it to be a standalone product. The game probably should have been bundled with a few other games to make it better value for money. That said, if you really want to play Jenga on your DS then you'll be happy with Jenga World Tour. Value for money might be a debatable question but there's no doubt that the developers did a decent job with the game. Had single-card multiplayer gaming been included as well as support for the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service (with support for leagues and tournaments etc.), it would have been a more appealing product.