Jezz for iPhone/iPod touch Reviewed by Jacob Spindel
JezzBall is almost up there with Tetris and Breakout/Arkanoid as one of those classic games that practically everybody has played at some point - in fact, you can even try a Java version at www.jezzball.org just in case you're not familiar with the concept. However, despite the game's ubiquity, there was a time when there weren't any versions of the game available for iPhone. Fortunately, now several JezzBall games are beginning to appear on the App Store, such as Eyestorm and Jezster. We got a chance to play Menial Software's Jezz, and we're happy to report that it is a faithful and fun, although somewhat basic, representation of the game.
All That Jezz Similar to Xonix or Qix, Jezz involves a set of spherical objects bouncing around within a rectangular game board. You can draw vertical or horizontal lines that ?slice? the game board into multiple pieces, and any piece with no objects in it becomes yours. Your objective is to claim a certain percentage of the board (always 70% in this particular version) as your own and move on to the next level (20 levels are included). Just be careful when you're drawing the ?slice? lines though, since your line can't come into contact with any of the objects while it is still in the process of being drawn - if it does, you'll lose a life and the line you were attempting will be canceled.
Overall, Jezz is polished and elegant. The blue background has a slight gradient instead of being a single color, giving it a modern appearance that is pleasing to look at, although there is only one background image for all of the levels. The bouncing spheres are detailed and well animated with a baseball-like appearance. Your current score and remaining lives are displayed in the top status bar, while your current percentage is displayed translucently over the center of the game board.
Jezz's audio is minimalist - as in, almost nonexistent. There's no background music, but you can keep your own music playing in the background while you're playing the game, which many gamers would prefer to the cheesy music used in some iPhone games anyway. However, the sound effects are also pretty limited, consisting of some light clicks and thumps; it would've been nice if the game had more recognizable audio cues associated with specific events, so that you could get clues about what was happening just by listening (although I wouldn't recommend actually playing that way!).
The good news about Jezz's controls is that it uses the iPhone's accelerometer; the bad news about the controls is... that it uses the accelerometer. Drawing lines is simple enough ? just tap wherever you want on the game board ? but you have two choices for rotating between vertical and horizontal lines. Although there is a button on the status bar you can tap to rotate your cursor, most gamers will probably prefer the second option, which is to rotate the iPhone itself, since the game responds to these rotations by rotating your cursor accordingly. This is a clever approach that most JezzBall games don't have available to them, since physically rotating the phone gives you that feeling of physically interacting directly with the game, and it is also intuitive with almost no learning curve. However, as iPhone owners probably already know, the accelerometer isn't exactly 100% accurate, so if you rotate the phone quickly (or imprecisely) and then try draw a line immediately, you may discover that the iPhone hasn't detected the rotation yet, sending your line in the wrong direction, which can be frustrating. You'll need to be careful and deliberate when using the accelerometer method, which can be tricky in a game that sometimes requires fast reflexes.
Jezz has an Options screen, but the only options actually listed there are Sound on/off and Credits. The game also maintains a high score list, and it even remembers the name you entered last time and uses it as the default entry for the next time you get a high score ? nice! Jezz also lets you resume on the level you played most recently if you lose or exit the app, which is quite convenient for a game you'll be playing on the go and may have to interrupt unexpectedly.
Since there have been a variety of Jezz-style games over the years, many of them have applied variations to the classic formula, ranging from versions that add simple power-ups all the way up to one take-off on the game that would sometimes include a man-eating shark swimming around the game board. For the most part, Jezz sticks to the classic formula, although it does add a second type of bouncing sphere in later levels that has the ability to chip away at, and poke holes in, the lines you draw. This probably won't impress people who are looking for over-the-top add-ins that change the overall gameplay drastically, but purists who prefer the original formula will feel right at home with Jezz.
Jonesin' For Jezz With all the different JezzBall games available in lots of different formats, chances are you already know whether or not you like this type of game. If you do, then Jezz is a great way to bring that style of game to your iPhone. The smooth graphics and carefully designed gameplay demonstrate impressive attention to detail. It doesn't have much in the way of audio or advanced features, but considering it's only two dollars, you are certainly getting more than your money's worth with Jezz.
Presentation: The graphics are bright and detailed with lots of nice touches, making the game very pleasant to look at. Too bad not much effort was put into the audio. 4.0/5.0 Controls: Jezz makes very clever use of the accelerometer, although, as with most accelerometer-based games, this can also cause delays or lack of precision. 4.5/5.0 Fun Meter: The developers have done a good job avoiding annoyances (like having to type or configure the same things over and over), enabling you to focus on the gameplay. Although they haven't added many new ideas to the classic formula, it's still very entertaining. After all, they call JezzBall a classic for a reason. 4.5/5.0 Replayability: Jezz is a fun game with a simple premise, which makes it very addictive, although 20 levels may not be enough for some hardcore gamers. 4.0/5.0
Playing Hints And Tips
You probably already knew this, but in order to claim as much of the board as possible, it is best to isolate the spheres in separate sections, ideally with only one sphere per section. If you have several of them bouncing around an area in different directions, you won't be able to cut down the area as much.
In levels with line-destroying spheres, often the best way to deal with them is simply to complete the level as fast as possible to avoid dealing with their effects.
You can draw as many lines as you want ? so don't be in a rush to take huge unnecessary risks. If you play conservatively and carry out your strategies a little more slowly, you are more likely to conserve lives and avoid losing (although this may decrease your time bonus).