A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this app.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Jenga is a faithful recreation of the popular family-friendly tower-building game. Using a realistic physics engine, you'll see your tower wobble and lean as you remove puzzle pieces and stack them higher. The blocks react like the ones in the real-world version, which is an incredible feat. Designed in consultation with Leslie Scott, the original creator of Jenga, the game includes several modes, including the classic regular game, a pass-and-play mode for more than one person, and a new "arcade" mode, which adds a time element. Kids will appreciate the app's forgiving nature, whereas shaky hands in a real-world version can end a game prematurely. Online play is a part of the game, though, and includes the ability to play and chat with strangers -- and there is no method to disable this. There's a separate HD iPad version of the game called Jenga HD, which is a bit easier given the extra screen size, but iPhone players can get the same experience in Jenga.
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What's it about?
Much as with the board game, players must remove blocks from a stack and replace them on top. Although shaky hands aren't an issue here, players still must carefully choose their moves. Select a block by tapping it, and then carefully remove it from the stack by swiping it out -- something that often takes several swipes. The block will automatically hover above the tower and then drop on top when tapped again. Pick the wrong block or pull too forcefully and you'll knock the tower down -- and lose the game.
Is it any good?
JENGA doesn't seem to be a natural fit for an app, but NaturalMotion does a terrific job of building an electronic version of this classic -- thanks in large part to its terrific physics engine, which causes the blocks to react as they would in the real world. Is it more fun than the game you play with friends around a table? No. But it's as close as you can come. The pass-and-play mode is the best mode -- since playing Jenga alone isn't a fulfilling experience. And the new arcade mode, with colors and a timer, is a great spin on the single-player game that makes it fun to play when you're alone. It's nice to be able to play with friends who aren't in the immediate room, but there are some safety concerns there. Still, at its core, this is a terrific game.
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