Jamzu in Review – When you cross chess, checkers and backgammons you get…

Board games are one of the oldest forms of entertainment known to man. Long before cell phones, tablets, PCs and even TV and books, the general population’s free time was ruled by board games, whether it was the Chinese Go, the ancient game of backgammons or some variant of chess. And in the new era the creative streak still hasn’t expired, with people dreaming up new games every day. And one of such feats of creativity is Jamzu.

Jamzu is a new-age board game, sort of a mix between chess, checkers, backgammons and who else knows what. The general idea is deceptively simple – move all of your pieces across the board before your opponent does the same. Each turn the player rolls a six-sided die and can move one of his pieces on the board according to the result. But wait, that’s way too simple to make it interesting! Enter jammers – neutral pieces that may be moved by any player but only diagonally and only following specific rules (which I’m not going to get into right now). In a nutshell, this is the basic principle of Jamzu.

The iPhone incarnation of the board game features 2 variations on the rules – the classic mode and the DieDeck mode, where the list of recent die-rolls is kept and if the roll has already appeared in the last 5 results you have to reroll. This balances out the luck part of any game, based on rolling dice, and provides more room for strategy and tactics. You can play against the AI (with difficulty levels configurable from Novice to Expert) or against a human opponent either on a single device or local Wi-Fi. No online multiplayer though, which is quite strange for a game supporting both OpenFeint and GameCenter.

Visually the game looks reasonably nice. It takes full advantage of the Retina display and the rendering quality is crisp and clear. The design itself however is lacking in many ways and the Retina support is more of a marketing gimmick than any noticeable improvement. Jamzu does offer several different visual themes, displaying the pieces in variety of ways, from common checkers pieces to glittering gems. The game also features helpful hints to assist you in making the move in accordance with the quite complicated rules of the game. Technically the most disappointing aspect to me was the absence of a universal mode, that would allow the game to run natively on an iPad. After all, playing the game head to head on a single iPhone or iPod Touch is far from comfortable.

Jamzu is the proof that human creativity is unstoppable. Despite the multitude of various board games available, enterprising individuals still manage to dream up original concepts based on a few basic principles, without the need of all the complexity that most modern board games require (like Settlers of Catan (TMA Review) for example). Unfortunately, the absence of a native iPad version for single device enjoyment and online multiplayer rather limits the potential of this refreshing title. That said, if you’re a huge board games fan, you should still find hours of enjoyment from Jamzu. If not, you can always check out the free lite version on the App Store before picking up the full game.

With this I declare Jamzu officially touched!

App Summary
Title: JamzuDeveloper: Real Fun Art
Reviewed Ver:1.50Min OS Req:3.0
Price:$1.99App Size:18.43MB
  • Original concept
  • GameCenter and OpenFeint leaderboards
  • A bit lacking in the design
  • No online multiplayer
  • Not a universal application

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