Updated: Dec 12, 2019
"You’ve seen one balancing game, you’ve seen ‘em all.” Well, maybe...
Balancing games certainly have a distinct similarity: after all, they are pretty much all bound to involve putting objects on top of one another and hoping they don’t fall over. Junk Art is undeniably more of the same but yet it does offer something that goes beyond its predecessors.
For starters, the production values are off the chart. The chunky painted wooden pieces all have a pleasingly solid feel, and the whole thing comes packaged in an old-fashioned slide-top wooden box, just like its Pretzel Games stable mate Flick ‘em Up. Some critics have argued that the production of Junk Art is excessive for what it is; but that’s like criticising Van Gogh for using too much paint on his Sunflowers.
And, there is a game here. This isn’t just playing with odd-shaped building blocks: Junk Art incorporates a series of different mini-games, each themed (mostly irrelevantly) around world cities. Each play will differ because it will use only a random permutation of three out of the 15 ‘cities’ supplied. Some of the mini-games reward the tallest structure, others the most pieces used. There are mini-games where players are all contributing to the same structure and others where each is working on their own. There is a card representing each wooden piece, and the cards form an integral part of the various city challenges. These also introduce a ‘take that’ element, as players play cards on opponents to require them to use an especially awkwardly shaped piece. And for fans of Flick ‘em Up, the Nashville mini-game is a crossover mini-game specifically designed to bring these two games together (tho’ this means that the Nashville card is only playable if you own both Junk Art and Flick ‘em Up.
Don’t turn to Junk Art expecting it to function as a substitute for Chess, but don’t dismiss it either as merely a childish toy. Every game I’ve played has been fun and everyone has enjoyed the challenge of competing with others and playing cards to try to sabotage their constructs. Pretzel have obviously realised that some players will want to take this game very seriously indeed, so they’ve even included a tape measure to help adjudicate on arguments over whose is really the tallest structure. And yes, the measure is in both metric and imperial measure. They seem to have thought of everything.