Juju

Developed by Flying Wild Hog and published by Nordic Games, “Juju” was released for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in 2014. The family-friendly platformer was a free game for Xbox Gold members which is why I randomly choose to review it after downloading it recently. You’ll take control of Juju, a pink panda bear on his quest to rescue his father who has been captured by an evil purple bat. Is this game worth playing as an adult or is it better left for the kids?

Story:
Juju has zero dialogue in the game and there’s not much of a plot. The game opens with a cut scene of Juju and his lizard friend, Peyo playing together as Juju’s father leaves to start a ritual atop a mountain. As a shaman, Juju’s father starts mixing magic before leaving the area briefly. Juju and Peyo can’t help themselves and start messing around with the magic accidentally releasing evil spirits including a large purple bat that attacks Juju’s father. The bat grabs ahold of Juju’s father and takes him away but before disappearing, Juju’s father throws Juju his wooden shaman mask. Now, Juju and his sidekick must travel through four worlds to rescue Juju’s father from the evil bat.

Gameplay:
Okay, well the first thing you’ll notice from the cover is that this is probably not a game made for adults. In a way, you’re right, but in some aspects you’re wrong. I know I immediately thought this game was for kids. Everything about the game Juju is tailored to children. The bright colors, the non-verbal dialogue, and the lack of text. There’s no text in the game, even on the menu. It’s just symbols and buttons making it a universal game for anybody due to the lack of any language both verbal or written.

You’ll take control of Juju through four different worlds, each with about eight levels of platforming. This isn’t so much of a survival platformer where enemies are actively attacking you but more of an exploring platformer where you’ll have to avoid enemies while finding secrets throughout the level. There are hidden passages and small trap doors that lead “butterflies” which are the collectible item throughout the game. (Think Mario Coins or Crash Bandicoot Wampa Fruit) There’s no reason to collect the butterflies as “lives” don’t exist in Juju. There is a checkpoint every 30 seconds so if you somehow die you’ll restart just a few steps away.

The game is very easy for the most part. You’re granted two hearts but you can gain a third by finding one throughout the level. Things like falling in water won’t kill you, instead, you’ll swim back to the land and try again. There are pits and you can die from being hit too much but as I said earlier the enemies are just there, they aren’t trying to attack you. You can take care of them in a few various ways. Jumping on them usually works, but you can do a dash that knocks them away, and later throw candy balls at them. Platforming isn’t very hard, as most platforms are easy to land on. There are a few that will move or flip but if you are an adult you’ll do just fine. Once I stopped collecting the butterflies, each level is around three minutes long. If you try and collect everything as I did for the first 75 percent of the game, then levels can last up to ten minutes as there are tons to explore and find. Each level will have three mini-games hidden in the form of warp doors that will transport you to an area where you collect butterflies in the wind.

Where Juju escalates a bit is the boss fights. These are considerably more difficult than the actual levels where you lollygag around. These fights are well-designed and are a rare bright spot in Juju. The first boss was a giant frog who launched his tongue at you. You had to avoid it and trap it in a device or get him to eat bees. The second boss was a robot who swung his arms, shot lasers, and stomped on you. The key to him was hitting his hard drive and taking the batteries out on his back. On the third stage, there’s a huge octopus that will thrash at you, send waves of deadly fish, and throw bombs. You’ll need to hit caps off of drains to disrupt the water. Eventually, he’ll close in on you with spiked barnacles and you’ll have to hit his tentacles when they land, you’ll need to be perfect or else the barnacles will crush you. This boss was a bit tough and it took me a few times to get his pattern down. With the fourth world being candy land you’ll have to run away from a candy monster as he eats everything in the path. He was pretty easy to defeat after shooting some exploding candy in your mouth. The final boss is the purple bat, he is a challenge and will take some skill. My point is the bosses are far tougher than the actual gameplay for the levels. This game is clearly for kids so I imagine they probably need help from an older brother or parent to defeat the bosses.

There’s no music or not any that I remember from Juju which was disappointing. This game gives vibes of Little Big Planet with all the “cute” enemies and levels but more directed at children. Also, Juju has to be a pink Care Bear. I mean, he is designed just like them.

Memories:
I remember people complaining about this game for the Xbox Gold games of the month. They didn’t want “kiddy” games, and I now understand why.

Overall:
Juju is a game for kids probably ages 8-13. There’s no text, voices, or even much of a plot. It’s an easy platformer that won’t require much skill to beat the levels, but the difficulty ramps up with boss fights so that adds some challenge. Unless you want to spend a day killing time with no stress from a video game, Juju is best left to kids who seek a family-friendly experience away from the guns, violence, and cursing that creep into most games. Juju has solid graphics and if I was a lot younger I might enjoy it more but I’m an adult and this just wasn’t my cup of tea.

Juju scores a 5.8 out of 10.

Do you remember when Juju first came out? Did you play it with a friend or by yourself? Was it challenging at all or were you like me, and yawned at the gameplay? Was the boss fights difficult? Let me know your memories and thoughts, I’d love to read the comments!

If you’d like to own a copy of Juju, you can purchase a digital copy of it from the Microsoft store for $15.

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