[1 February 2008]
PopMatters Associate Multimedia Editor
Many magazines and official publications, such as the Associated Press, are focusing their ‘Worst Games of The Year’ lists for 2007 on more mainstream titles like Halo 3 for shoddy plot or Assassin’s Creed for repetitive gameplay. This approach suffers from a bit of skewing because it calls out games that, although flawed, are certainly not the worst games of the year. Typical of the mainstream media and their subservient tastes, they have overlooked those true, hard to find, terrible games. Then again, if you’re going to talk shit about somebody, it helps if people know who you’re talking about. But the fan sites and blogosphere tell a different, slightly more bargain bin story. The true ‘Worst Game of the Year’ for 2007 is Jenga World Tour on the Nintendo Wii.
Let’s start off with what first strikes a player concerning the incredible awfulness of the game: You can’t totally control the game camera. The fact that they still make three-dimensional games where I don’t 100% have the ability to control my viewing perspective, whether it be to see a hidden secret or just point the damn thing up my avatar’s ass, is astounding. If the graphics go to shit, if the scene clips, or if the game cuts to a scene from ‘Cop Rock’, then at least I know I’m the one who did it.
It’s not the end of the world for most games that lack this (Super Mario Galaxy comes to mind) and I can respect the fact that most players don’t take the blame when a game looks bad. Enter Jenga World Tour. You’re restricted to merely looking at the blocks from a rotating head-on angle. You do this with the nunchuck joystick, spinning left to right while never being allowed to go overhead or at any other awkward angle you might need to see a block’s position. This comes up particularly when you’re trying to place blocks on top of the tower. With such core features as this, Jenga World Tour is able to easily beat out the shortcomings of lesser worst games. And with that misplaced block, the rest of the tower tumbles.
The controls aren’t terribly designed, the physics aren’t too bad, and they all reside in an environment that lets you use your Wiimote to play Jenga. The mechanic is exactly what it sounds like, shoving your Wiimote at a Jenga tower. Trying to pull a block out almost always ends clumsily with unintended tilting that seems impossible to prevent. You can lock certain bars into place to help pull things out but that doesn’t do much good in a game where you’re trying to keep an entire tower of them from falling.
Like Jenga, only colder.
In fact, the one redeeming thing about the game is the ridiculous difficulty. If you’re one of those people who enjoys challenging activities like performing surgery with your teeth, then this is a game for you. I wouldn’t say the game’s Artificial Intelligence is bad, because it doesn’t seem to have any. The player’s opponents either play like they’re Doctor Strange by magically moving blocks with no trouble at all, or they take a five minute break, think about what they’re going to do, and then play like they’re Doctor Strange. Finally, all of these complications put togetherculminate in the campaign mode where each level has its own unique environmental hazards to screw up your game. When you first saw that amazing scene where the glass of water is rippling in Jurassic Park all those years ago and thought, “My God, wouldn’t that be funny if a dinosaur knocked over someone’s Jenga game?”, well, you finally have your chance to see just how funny it would be.
Special mention also goes out to the game’s character icons for their extraordinary achievement in not making any sense and making you feel dumber than you already do. Never mind Nintendo’s blatantly successful user-created Miis, you’re going to be using bizarre and cartoony characters like a cowboy slot machine, a shark, or a goggle-wearing penguin. It’s little touches like this that bring the game’s awfulness to new depths. Such details is what separates this game from Halo 3‘s choppy plot or Assassin’s Creed‘s repetitive missions to make a truly distinctively crappy game.
Is that a coconut with a lei?
Obviously, the most logical place for this game is in the home, where you can play it with your friends. Together, you can all sit around the T.V. and play a nice round of try not to be the loser. This is ultimately the most egregious problem that makes this game the ‘Worst Game of the Year’. The point of Jenga is to not lose. You can’t really win in the traditional, PWN’D style of today’s games because if there are more than two players, you’re going to be sharing the trophy. The traditional carrot on the stick has been replaced with just the stick. That’s fine when you’re playing the traditional board game for Jenga because the stick itself is fairly impressive: the loser knocks over the piss-all annoying-to-rebuild tower of blocks. That’s tangible. That’s as bad as a ‘Game Over’ screen, that’s as bad as having to go back to your last save point. But in a game where the prize is traditionally not being the loser, all that happens when the tower gets knocked over is that the loser seems to be having more fun than you. When a game can make you want to lose at it more than win, something special has happened. Something that merits ‘Worst Game of the Year’.
We now come to the part of the review where I make some esoteric, pseudo-intellectual reference to some other form of art and try to tie it all back to the idea that games are art too. That’s my gimmick, and I’m not going to let Jenga World Tour stop me. One need look no further than the nearly impossible to comprehend Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce. He writes, “TAFF (all Perssiasterssias shookatnaratatattar at his wagon-horchers, his bulgelarying stargapers razzledazzlingly full of eyes, full of balls, full of holes, full of buttons, full of stains, full of medals, full of blickblackblobs) Grozarktic!” What the fuck does that mean? I don’t know. Why did they make Jenga into a video game? I don’t know. But I do know that this is the worst game, above and beyond the others, of 2007.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/jenga-world-tour/