Quick show of hands: if a game has ‘Party’ in the title, it must be a multiplayer game, right? It might be an ironic use of the word ‘party’, where everyone sits on a sofa and hates each other for backstabbing them, stealing coins and stars. We would have put cold, hard cash on JoJo Siwa: Worldwide Party being the same.
As it turns out, JoJo Siwa: Worldwide Party is not a collection of minigames where you whack each other with mallets. It’s equal-parts rhythm action game and endless runner, and it’s entirely single player. We would have lost that bet.
JoJo Siwa, if you don’t know, is an internet teen who has 12.2m followers on Youtube at the time of writing. She posts daily video diaries that can inexplicably last hours (when does she have time to edit the thing?), and is possibly best known for her music career, with hits like Boomerang and Kid in a Party Store. Yes, I had to look most of this up.
Most importantly, she has enough of a following to form a partnership with Outright Games, allowing her to release a cross-platform game that showcases her songs. Thanks to this curious chain of events, a grown man is reviewing said game. But don’t worry: I’ve forced my two daughters to give it a go too (one has heard a couple of the songs, the other wondered if JoJo Siwa: Worldwide Party was about a monkey, which is a logical leap that I’ll ask her about later).
What initially surprises about JoJo Siwa: Worldwide Party is its singular focus. Putting on the cynical hat, it takes an idea that might have been a minigame in a much larger party game, and then tries to stretch it over an entire single-player campaign. Games like Rabbids: Party of Legends would have shuffled this into a deck of roughly thirty other minigames. Being more generous, Cocodrilo Dog and Outright Games have taken an extremely simple idea, and done their damnedest to enliven it.
The level starts with JoJo on something akin to a racetrack. She starts running from left-to-right, and obstacles appear. These obstacles require a jab of one of three buttons. B slams you through a wall, Down has you sliding under hurdles, and A has you jumping over smaller police cones and sandwich boards. They trundle towards you at a reasonable speed, so half the challenge is anticipating these obstacles and working out which button is needed to bypass them.
But this isn’t a pure endless runner, as the obstacles are timed with music. JoJo’s musical hits play in the background, and you move acrobatically in time with the beats. The brick walls you slam through are often timed with the percussion; the slides with a lull in the music; and the collectibles add a chime that follows the melody.
Surprise number two and three arrived in quick succession. The levels are really well designed. There’s a Harmonix-level of quality to the synchronicity between level and music, and you can find yourself tapping away to the melody rather than the visuals. The smashable walls, in particular, have a real impact to them, shaking the screen as you Kool Aid out of the other side, and it only amplifies the beat of the song.
Surprise three was that the songs weren’t terrible. It’s faint praise, we know, and we’re underplaying it for fear of losing the small amount of reputation we have. We expected some horrible Smurf-like novelty songs. What’s here is sanitised pop, sure, but catchy and well made. Some songs are even, shock-horror, likable, and we found ourselves tapping our feet as we played and hummed them afterwards. The kids, of course, were all over it. They were bouncing around the room, which made them appropriately rubbish at finishing the levels.
It’s a shame, then, that the songs are stretched as thin as they are. There are ten worlds here, and each world has roughly four levels. All four of the levels in a given world are soundtracked by the same song, which means you are hearing it four times in a row before you can progress to the next world. Now, JoJo Siwa: Worldwide Party does obfuscate this a tad, by letting you play an instrumental first, then two near-complete runthroughs of the song, before a final (and rubbish) ‘concert’ that changes up the endless running for some slowed down rhythm action. But four times in a row is asking a lot. As a parent of children who listen to songs on repeat, all the time, I’m inured to it. But it still feels cheap and unnecessary: would it have been so hard to include more songs, or to shuffle them a little bit?
That thinness is a common theme. JoJo Siwa: Worldwide Party does its absolute best in this regard, changing up the look of the obstacles with each world (working out whether a skeeball machine, for example, is a jump, duck or blast is a challenge). It also thrusts JoJo into rollerskates, train carriages and spaceships in an effort to reskin things, and you even get an entire world where you play as Bowbow, JoJo’s dog. But it’s all smoke-and-mirrors, as the game hangs off too thin a thread. By the end, we realised that we were playing the game entirely via muscle memory. We had stopped actually paying attention to the gameplay and songs, and that’s likely not a good thing.
A note for parents, too: things get excessively and surprisingly hard in the mid-to-late levels. Obstacles arrive in sequence, and JoJo Siwa: Worldwide Party isn’t fantastic at making its game legible. You can have multiple obstacles on a raised platform, and a young child’s brain just can’t compute how that translates into button presses. We had to take over a number of times, and – in one level – we failed a solid fifteen times on one section.
We’re also not completely sure that our inputs were being tracked correctly. There’s a calibration test that you can do, which helped a tad, but we found ourselves mashing buttons because we were lacking in confidence that JoJo Siwa: Worldwide Party would register them correctly. Particularly when a jump would follow quickly after another button press, or when you had to dodge an asteroid in a spaceship, the game was curiously slow to react. These feelings aren’t dominant – they just crept in occasionally.
As a family, we enjoyed JoJo Siwa: Worldwide Party. The music immediately went on our daughters’ playlists, and the blend of platforming and rhythm action was reasonably smooth. But while it tries hard to remix things and offer new takes on the gameplay, it can’t disguise the repetition. This is a single idea that needed greater support: it needed to be around other minigames, or invite in some multiplayer features.
As it stands, JoJo Siwa: Worldwide Party is a bit of a one-hit wonder.
You can buy JoJo Siwa: Worldwide Party from the Xbox Store
- Mix of platforming and running works a treat
- Mapping to the music is expertly done
- Songs actually slap, in their own small, poppy way
- Gameplay idea is spread too thin
- Some technical issues with input-reading
- Songs are repeated too frequently
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Purchased by TXH
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch
- Version reviewed - Xbox Series X
- Release date - 21 October 2022
- Launch price from - £34.99