After inadvertently releasing evil spirits into his divine world, JUJU is off on a mission, a mission to save both his father, and indeed the world, from being over run by his doing. But will visiting the world of JUJU bring anything useful to your gaming life or is it basically just a game for the kids?
No matter how Flying Wild Hog try and market JUJU, the real target audience can undeniably be those between the ages of seven and ten. Anything younger than that and they’d struggle to even understand the design behind the game, whilst any over will no doubt laugh in your face as they continue to ‘trash talk’ on Call of Duty.
And that would be a shame because JUJU is a reasonably decent way of spending some of those relaxing moments we all need. At least in short ten minute bursts anyway.
You see, there is absolutely nothing offensive about JUJU. In fact, it’s possibly the least offensive title I’ve ever played, with its roots and indeed its core gameplay all suited to the youngest of Xbox 360 audiences. Flying Wild Hog would love to see gamers of all ages participate in JUJU but the truth of the matter is the hardcore are going to take one look at the visuals on offer and will immediately turn away.
Named after its star protagonist, JUJU sees you take control of a young pink panda who with his friend Peyo the lizard (it’s not really for the kids you know!), goes out on the search for his father in an attempt to save both him and the gloriously colourful world they frequent from a number of evil spirits. Set as a 2D platformer, it’ll be immediately obvious that the developers are big fans of both the recent Rayman titles and any/all Mario games. In fact, there are so many rips taken from both series’, Rayman especially, that you could be forgiven for thinking you were indeed in Ubisoft’s finest platformer. Just like those it models itself on, we can’t fault JUJU in terms of platforming basics with decent, but ultimately uninspiring level designs and plenty of hidden secret areas available to search out, some pretty much spot on jumping, dashing and floating mechanics and just enough enemies placed to make things interesting.
Split over four ‘worlds’, each with its own defining theme, JUJU consists nearly entirely of traversing from left to right in order to reach the level end where a special ‘wheel of fortune’ is awaiting. On your way, as well as taking out and dodging a few of the most basic of enemies, JUJU will need to collect magical embers for no reason other than to give him something to do and help increase your level score – although if you collect enough you’ll get an extra life heart added on, but these aren’t particularly needed as unlimited respawns and plenty of checkpoints mean each level can be fairly easily completed. There are three secret areas in each level which need hunting out if you decide to 100% complete JUJU, and these bring some slight replayability offerings to the equation. But with the vast majority of these secrets stumbled upon as you go about your business, I’d be very surprised if you needed to spend much time going back over old ground in an attempt to ‘complete’. The addition of a time trial mode once you’ve got round to defeating the end of story boss (who is surprisingly difficult) may help you tease another few minutes out of it though.
However, and depending on how you view the game this is the real draw or killer, the difficulty level that has been integrated into JUJU is its real over riding factor. Any seasoned gamer that likes to have a nice relaxing time will, without question complete JUJU fully in around five hours, with very few deaths occurring in that time. In fact, if you managed to roll all the way through JUJU only dying a few times at the hands of some evil end of world bosses then I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised. Even those with only a few years of gaming behind them will find it relatively easy, especially when teaming up with Peyo and a local friend for some delightful cooperative platforming.
JUJU prides itself on a robust co-op system that lets just about anyone experience the game fully and it’s true that the difficulty level can be increased or lowered depending on your individual skill levels, but not at any time does it feel like a true joint effort. Instead, the cooperative value included basically just allows those holding lesser skills to get involved when they fancy it, floating around in a safe bubble for the bits that are even slightly taxing. There is no need for a helping hand other than to complete the end of world bosses slightly easier and for a game that has a large dose of hype surrounding it’s cooperative system, is a shame to see no real hands on team up. And it’s even more of a shame to not see any form of online co-op hitting the colourful lands of JUJU.
Whilst it’s lovely to see an option giving different levels of player the chance to get involved, it’s this ease of play that is in fact its downfall, with even the hardest of difficulties only bringing a few hours of joy before boredom rocks up and show its ugly face.
JUJU won’t be the best thing you’ve ever played, but it certainly isn’t the worst and if you can drag a small child or maybe even an older relative along to experience the small resemblance of story, then you’ll find yourself taking part in five hours or so of delightful, but seriously easy, cooperative action.
But don’t go letting the real youngsters loose on it by themselves because they’ll quickly become frustrated by the bosses that, whilst easy enough for most, will be a massive struggle for those not really in the know.
JUJU is fun, for a little while at least.