Off the Grid + Joyswag: Donkey Kong Jenga

Update: Entry period for the giveaway has ended. Saria the Cat was randomly selected, and here's her winning entry: "Ticket to Ride expansion using the Ocarina of Time Hyrule map. Yeah, I know I'm creative. Not." Congrats to the winner, and you can still read our impressions of the game below!

It's been awhile since we've brought you an Off the Grid post, and we're returning with a special edition where you can actually win the game we're talking about. During the final rounds of this year's Omegathon at PAX '08, Jenga was one of the most exciting things to watch. Which block would they pull out next? Who would topple the tower? Is it cheating to use two hands?

USAopoly has been putting out branded versions of popular board games since 1994. They currently produce eight different versions of Jenga including Casino Jenga: Las Vegas Edition, and the timely Jenga: Halloween Edition. The most recent version of the game is Donkey Kong themed, features different colored Marios, pink girders, a spinner, and Pauline (not Princess Peach) who was the damsel in distress in the arcade game. Read all about it after the break, and steady your hand before commenting so you can win one of your very own.

Jenga was first created by Leslie Scott in 1974, who created the game out of some wooden blocks she had been given as a present. When she later went to Oxford University, she brought the game with her and introduced it to friends. Later, she took out a copyright and began selling the game in the UK. An American entrepreneur liked the game so much that he brought it to America where it was purchased by Milton Bradley, who first started selling it in 1987. Today, Hasbro owns the rights to Jenga, and it's produced more then 10 different versions of the game, including a pink-a-fied "Girl Talk" edition. You know you want it.

Since first appearing there have been numerous different variations on the theme of block pulling. Throw 'n Go Jenga comes with colored blocks and a die that tells you what color or location to take from, Jenga Cubes uses colored cubes instead of rectangular blocks, and Jenga Xtreme uses oddly shaped purple and green blocks that lean to the side. Of course, don't forget the video game version, Jenga World Tour for the Wii and DS, which is still a head scratcher. Whoever thought the tower-building game that makes you shout JENGA! (or other expletives) would have so many variations on a theme?

Apparently, a version for the retro gamers and 8-bit lovers was in order. In this version, the wooden blocks are colored black, have bright pink girders painted on the sides, and a hole drilled into each end. You can play it like regular Jenga (if you don't mind the bright pink girders), or you can go nuts and play the Donkey Kong version. Claim one of the four different colored Marios and stick him in somewhere on the ground level. Give the spinner a flick to see how far up you get to move, and how many girders you'll have to remove.

Where it gets tricky is when you have to move your Mario. Every time you move up a level, you have to switch your Mario to another side, so that he' ends up standing on top of the next girder up. The pegs on the backside of Mario are fairly long, and we knocked the tower over more than trying to get that peg into the girder, and we threw out the two-hands rule in order to steady the tower. You can remove a girder that one of your opponents is standing on, which sadly doesn't send them to the bottom of the tower, but knocks them back one girder. Curses.

There's also a big plastic piece with both Donkey Kong and Pauline on it, which you have to remove before removing a girder and replace on top of the highest girder when you're done. Whoever is the first to get to the top and rescue Pauline wins the game. If the tower topples before that happens, whichever Mario was the highest at the time is the winner, and whoever made the tower fall is the LOSER. At first, you think you'll easily be able to race to the top by landing on the "move three girders" hammer spinner spot, but the towers start out with 14 levels and it gets higher all the time.

A lot of times it feels like a game designer is just trying to shoehorn a popular game into another format in an effort to get people to buy it, but the girder-based gameplay, along with the spinner, actually make this pretty similar to the old arcade game, and the 8 bit graphics on everything are a nice compliment. We wish it wasn't so easy to knock the tower down, and we're thinking about designing our own plastic "barrel" and "fireball" pieces that rain down from the Kong ... and what about a hammer? Those are all represented on the spinner, but we'd like to see some peggle-versions in the game. Overall, it beats the heck out of the old Jenga (which you can still play with this set) while showing some retro love. Make room for it on your wishlist, or ... win one by entering our contest down below.

To enter the giveaway:
  • Leave a comment telling us what video game (new or old) you'd like to see as a board or puzzle game
  • You must be 18 years or older and a resident of the US or Canada (excluding Quebec)
  • Limit 1 entry per person per calendar day (comment more than once and we'll force you to play Candyland ... forever!)
  • This entry period ends at 12:00pm ET on Friday, November 14th. We'll randomly select 1 winner at that time to receive a copy of the USAoploy game: Donkey Kong JENGA (ARV: $24.95). Please check your e-mail!
  • For a list of complete rules, click here

This article was originally published on Joystiq.