If a tower of blocks fall and nobody’s hears it, who cares?
It’s already taken the coveted number one spot on our Worst Games of 2007 list, so why the heck are you even reading this review? You weren’t still thinking about going out and buying the game, were you? Because I can tell you now: don’t. No, really. Just don’t. What, that’s not enough to convince you? Okay, fine then.
[image1]First, why in the world would anyone want to make a video game of Jenga? Did Atari try to compensate for being unable to land the Epic Movie merchandising contract by settling for a toy tie-in? Has the company been purchased by a fundamental religious sect that believes that violence and images of people are inherently immoral? Was checkers too much work for their developers? Why make a video game from such a slow, methodical, and - above all - hands-on game like Jenga?
It’s like making a movie about knitting a sweater. In real time. Jenga is a game you only play when the power’s out, or when you’re stuck in a cabin in a snowstorm with your nine-year-old cousin. Is there really enough of a fan base for this game to justify an electronic version? And if so, why would they pay
$29.95 $24.99 when they can pick up the real thing for only 16 bucks?
Apparently, Atari didn’t think anyone would buy the game either, as they clearly pulled out the minimum number of stops in producing this monstrosity. Once you turn the game on, you will find no cut-scenes, no back-story, nothing to explain why the hell you’re playing Jenga instead of shooting zombies or casting magic missile or something. Maybe they figured the legions of diehard Jenga fans wouldn’t want any useless fluff standing between them and their precious towers. Nope. All you “blockheads” out there have to do is click through a couple of utilitarian menus to get to all the wood-stacking action you could possibly hope for.
So then, she was all like, “You’re not my baby’s daddy!”, and Springer says… oh, wait, you’re still reading this? You need more convincing? Well, if you insist…
[image2]Once you get to the game itself, your “Jenga Fever” will quickly fade. To be blunt, the controls don’t work. For a game that depends entirely on careful, precise movements, Jenga does a terrible job at reading your gestures with the Wii-mote. Trying to remove even a single piece is like trying to remove a brain tumor while wearing a Hazmat suit. Even the simplest of moves is likely to knock the whole damn structure down.
After twenty minutes of semi-controlled flailings with the Wii-mote, after I was finally able to release a tile at the top of the tower - and after I collapsed in exhaustion - I opened my eyes again only to find that the computer already completed its move and was waiting for me. Take your turn, please. Then, I inevitably make a fatal mistake and send the tower collapsing faster than the career hopes of anyone who worked on this game. And just to rub my nose in my defeat, Jenga plays the fateful crumbling over and over again in slow-motion while a triumphant march underscores the jumbled evidence of my failure. I’m sure the blinking “R” in the corner is supposed to stand for “Replay”, but all I can think is “Retard! Retard! Retard!”
With a great deal of patience, meditation, and deep breathing exercises, I was finally able to successfully extricate a wooden block from the pile and place it on top a few times, but “fun” is not the word I would use to describe the process. “Exasperating”, “confusing”, and “incomprehensible” come first. And even after unbelievably surviving two or three turns in a row, the tower resembled more like the product of a three-day tequila bender in a wood shop than anything an engineer would approve.
[image3]Even the backgrounds in Jenga are pretty pathetic – the designers have achieved an early-nineties level of computer animation. Upon entering the “arcade” level, I found myself physically blushing with embarrassment for Atari, looking at an ‘80s-style game room chock full of the stand-up arcade games that Atari used to make… back when they made things that people actually wanted to play. It was like the head honchos were saying, “Hey! Remember when we were cool? Huh? Remember? Wasn’t that great!?” Cringe-worthy.
And think about the money that was spent developing this game! With the cash they spent, they could have fed thousands of starving children, saved the spotted owl, or bought an actual Jenga set for every man, woman, and child in the state of Wyoming. Even setting fire to the wads of ad bills in the middle of Times Square would have done more for Atari’s tarnished image than this game will ever do.
From the back of the box, it’s clear that there are other “fantastic” levels to be achieved (oooh, underwater!). But unlocking them would involve actually beating the computer, which would in turn involve making more than four or five plays in a row without knocking the tower down, which in the soul-deadening hours I’ve devoted to this game, I have not yet been able to accomplish. And neither, dear reader, will you. Seriously, if you’ve got
$29.95 $24.99 $20.77 (or how about less than that) to spend, go out and by the real Jenga game. Even if you’re killing trees, it’s still the responsible thing to do.