In the case of my family, the little wooden Jenga blocks became just another obsolete play-thing, purely because no-one could be bothered to build up the Jenga tower.
That’s where gaming has its advantages. Whereas you won’t be able to feel that smooth wood beneath your fingers, nor that palpable tension when you’re dismantling a precarious block, Jenga for Mac recreates an as-close-as-you-can-get simulation of the classic game where you won’t have to labour over rebuilding your tower.
Jenga allows you to play online, on your own or with a friend sitting beside you. The rules are unchanged in the classic mode. Choose a block to proceed sliding it out of it’s cubbyhole. Then place it on the top of the tower and pass the turn to the next player. The loser is the one who causes the tower to crumble or fall.
Natural Motion (the developers) are well known for their physics simulations on the iPhone (the clue’s in the name) and the physics engine here is top notch. When you do eventually lose, the whole thing falls in such a realistic and believable way that you’re almost fooled into thinking it was real.
To remove a block you can either tap on the end to shove it along, or physically drag a side to angle it out of the space. This works pretty well, apart from the times when you think you are pulling a block out straight from the perspective that you’re at, but actually you’re pulling it at an angle. Also, when navigating around the Jenga tower, you can sometimes accidentally move a block instead, collapsing the tower.
It can be a bit unclear which block is best to pick, as it’s impossible for you to know where the tower is most weighted. Thankfully, the game includes a colour-coded rating system that lets you know if the block you’ve selected will instantly make the tower fall to its knees once moved. Arguably, this takes the fun away from the concept, and it’s true that the game becomes much easier in digital format.
Arcade Mode colours all of the blocks awarding you points for creating a new layer all of the same colour. Other than that, it’s the same principle. The game really shines in its online functionality. Create an account and you’ll be Jenga-ing in no time with some online opponents. Matches are turn-based meaning you can play them over a long period. This means you make a move when you’re near your computer, and then you can check back later to see if your opponent has moved. Multiple matches can be played at once if you want to play with someone instantly.
While the game’s physics and graphical presentation are strong, you aren’t going to get the same experience with Jenga for Mac as you do with the real game. Whereas with the real thing, it’s all about precise movement and concentration, here, it’s a guessing game about which block to pick, hoping you don’t pick a dud one. But these limitations come with the territory and I challenge a game developer to create a more realistic representation of the insanely popular Jenga block-building puzzle game than this. This is absolutely the best way to relive Jenga on your Mac.
Publisher: Natural Motion
Price: $0.99 (£0.99)
Description: Jenga on a Screen
Pros: Realistic physics, good graphics, precise block removal mechanic, the best Jenga you can get on your Mac.
Cons: A little easy compared to the real thing, not quite enough tension and suspense.