previews\ Jul 11, 2007 at 8:00 pm

Jenga World Tour - NDS - Preview


E3 2007 Preview

Party games come in all shapes on sizes, especially in the world of video games. Since Nintendo Wii is adept at re-creating real-world experiences, Atari decided that it would be interesting to experiment with a classic party game that is typically played with blocks, not a console: Jenga. My mind was filled with ideas the moment the game was announced. I envisioned myself pushing and pulling the remote to carefully remove a piece from the unstable tower.

That vision was dead on. If you've played the tangible Jenga, you know what to expect from the virtual iteration.

Players use both the Wii remote and nunchuck in this game, but the remote is where most of the gameplay unfolds. You use it and its motion capabilities to aim your cursor, which is a colored, rectangular object that grips each piece of the puzzle. Light tilts and aims are all it takes to get the remote to respond. If you're looking for some help, press the number 2 button and the easiest pieces will be highlighted in green. The most difficult pieces will be highlighted in darker colors, red being the most challenging.

Once you've found a piece you'd like to move, point the remote in its direction and press the A button. Now the piece is locked on. You can move the remote off screen and nothing will happen (in this build, at least -- many developments are still in the works). To remove the piece, do as a Jenga player would and pull the remote toward yourself. Right now the game works best when the remote was aimed at the piece that needed to be moved.

The game has a ways to go but the physics are already showing great promise. Move the remote with a little too much force and other blocks will be moved in the process. Fast actions are often less steady, leading to a rumble that could shake loose the whole tower. The same can be said for when you try to take back a move that proves to be unsatisfactory. In the demo it was unclear as to how far back a move could be taken. But if you don't pull a block out too far, you will be able to push it back in.

Multiplayer is the number-one area of anticipation for Jenga, and since it's turn-based, you'll only need one Wii remote to play. When a block has been gripped and carefully removed, the only thing left to do is place it on the top of the pile. Again, flow through the motions you normally would when playing Jenga: push the remote toward the screen, drag the remote down, and release. A green-lit, transparent box helps indicate when the block is in an acceptable area. It will not turn green until you're within that range. If you choose to drop the block anyway, the game will not allow you to continue. Also, the block may be dropped away from the board without penalty. I suspect this feature may change, unless the developers add a reason for doing this (aside from giving the player a breather, which is all it seemed to do in the build).

Lastly, Atari revealed that the game will offer many different kinds of block types, including ice and fire. It is not currently known what trouble the fire blocks will cause, but with ice, players will have to be extra cautious. Ice blocks may start to melt and freeze together, preventing them from being moved. This was shown in the demo, and Atari said that the ice blocks will also be slippery and thus more difficult to move. Slight actions could magnified, making this more than a video game version of the Jenga experience. Additionally, there will be water physics that come into play in a special water stage where the blocks move slower and more sluggishly, as if they were really submerged. In another stage, the tower may be affected by the ground as dinosaurs rumble by. Want more craziness? Go ahead, the game won't mind. Tack on an alien ship and watch in horror as it destroys the tower, ruining the game for the player currently taking his or her turn. (Run kids, the aliens are coming, the aliens are coming!)

Coming to the Wii and DS this November, Jenga is on schedule to becoming one of the year's best party games. Stay tuned to GameZone as we bring you more on this and other games shown at E3 in the coming months.

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