One of the reasons we love games in the first place is because they take us into a new world. They open our minds, and transport us to places and events we'd otherwise never be able to experience. Whether it's cracking one out of the park in the World Series, smoking Tiger Woods in a skins game, or jumping around tiny planets in space to save the beautiful "princess of dwarves," it's all about experiencing something new. While some will come down on Jenga: World Tour's gameplay, visuals, A.I., presentation, and lack of overall fun, we give the game credit for truly delivering something we could never do outside of a videogame: stack blocks, and try not to knock them down.
It shouldn't be much of a shocker to see what our main problem is with Atari's latest venture. Jenga for Wii is just that; Jenga. Why oh why, then, would we ever suggest people spend over double the price of an actual Jenga set just to play it virtually on a television? Well there's the kicker; we wouldn't. Jenga attempts to take the age-old game of "Don't Knock the Blocks Down or Your Big Brother Will Laugh You Out of the Kitchen", and rebuild it using the technology of the Wii-mote. We can see the theory behind it, but in a game that's entirely based on physical touch and very, very little else, how is this even possible?
Well, in this case World Tour tries to use the motion/IR combination of Wii's controller and then build an "out of this world" experience around it. True, the core experience in Jenga will be the same as it was back in 4000 B.C. (yes, this game came out before Wii), but the aim was to add power-ups, physics-based playfields, in-game hazards, and for those of you too poor and pathetic to buy friends, computer A.I. opponents. Technically the game works, even if it is extremely flawed. You grab pieces with the A button, move the Wii-mote while pointing at the screen, and the sensor bar does the rest, triangulating your position and determining exactly how you're trying to move the piece. You can push it, slide it, or pick it up and actually move around objects, and in that specific way, Jenga can be interesting for a few minutes. It's a great testament to the Wii that this can even be done on the system, as you can literally manipulate the block fully in 3D. Then again, you can do the same in Zack & Wiki, but it has a fully-realized game after the 60 seconds of amazement at the Wii tech in action.
In Jenga: World Tour, you're met only with clumsy design and poor execution. Pieces seem to stick to each other, the game uses a rubber band system rather than having you actually grab the blocks (basically it's fishing, Jenga style), and the physics – while operational – are done so haphazardly, adding tons of slowdown to the game in return. Since you're essentially tethering the cursor to a block and pulling it out indirectly, control becomes and issue, and since (here's the big shocker) there's no tactile feedback in a videogame, you'll never know how much stress you're putting on the stack of blocks. If only this experience could be recreated with a $10 box of blocks instead of a $30 piece of software. Alas, we are out of ideas.
Instead of physical feedback (hell, the game doesn't even use rumble), there's a color system put in place. Blocks that are green when hovered over with the cursor can be moved, while red ones are "load bearing" blocks, and shouldn't be touched. Now the game becomes a matter of moving around aimlessly until you find a green block, grabbing it, and pulling the block out via the Star-Wars-snow-speeder-harpoon-tow-cable-combo. Once you've pulled your first block out, simply place it at the top of the stack, go out to your Wii system menu, eject Jenga from the unit, boot up your $10 copy of Super Mario 64 on Virtual Console, grab an ice cold soda pop, and place it on your newly-purchased coaster. It's fun for the whole family.
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