JUJU was developed by Flying Wild Hog and published on Xbox 360 by Nordic Games. It was released December 9, 2014 for $14.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.
So what is JUJU? I’m not able to tell you that. I completed the game, and I have no idea if JUJU is the main character’s name, or the world it lives in, or the totems you need to collect. What I do know is that JUJU is an increasingly rare XBLA title, and it has a terrible name for which to use in a Google search.
JUJU is a happy-go-lucky side-scrolling platformer that’s all about the colorful visuals. The game looks like a toddler’s fever dream, filled with giant toys and smiling unnaturally colored animals. It’s about as kid-friendly as kid-friendly gets, even going so far as to have a main menu that only uses pictures. Unfortunately, the game has a severe case of style over substance, as its core gameplay is not as fun and whimsical as you might expect. JUJU feels like an uninspired re-skin of similar titles, and attempting to finish it quickly becomes a chore.
Here’s what I liked:
Relentlessly cute – If there’s one thing JUJU has down in spades, it’s the cuteness factor. The main character is an adorable pink bear, out to find his father after he vanished due to some evil magic and a giant bat. On his adventure he goes through four unique worlds, each more beautiful than the last. The game has a very vibrant color palette, making everything on screen come to life. The toy world looks wooden and hard, the food world looks delicious and the balloon world looks squishy and harmless. There’s also some nice attention to detail: the backgrounds shake when you do a ground pound, balloon platforms have give and your character gets messy when walking through jam. Every second of the game is bright, cute and brimming with fun personality.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Rayman Country – JUJU gives off a feeling of deja-vu within the first few levels. Most (if not all) of the elements of the game were ripped from one title or another. The game has way too much in common with the recent Rayman titles, from the collectables to the unlockable moves to the level design. There’s also a decent amount of Donkey Kong Country in there as well, including moments with the series-defining barrels and mine carts. Despite being derivative of franchises known for being fast-paced and/or challenging, JUJU is neither. The general movement feels a bit sluggish, and most levels can be completed without much effort (plus there’s an easy mode). JUJU draws too much on its inspiration without becoming something all its own.
Have we met? – The game does have a good amount of variety in its main levels, but there were definitely a few cut corners. Most notably are the secret areas; every main level has three warp gates, taking you to a challenge room where you must collect all the butterflies before time runs out. At first it’s a nice challenge, nothing out of the ordinary for a platformer of this type, but the problem is there are only about five different challenge rooms. Gates in completely different levels will take you to challenges you’ve already done multiple times, making it really tedious for anyone who wants to 100 percent the game. Repetition also appears in the boss battles, because you end up fighting every boss twice. The second time around things are mixed up enough to keep you on your toes, but the fights don’t feel as unique. Also, dying at any point in a boss encounters will send you back to the start, which can be a pain on some of the longer fights.
It won’t shut up – The visuals may be great, but the audio needs some work. JUJU uses some of the most cartoony sound effects possible, and it’s super annoying. Worst of all is the stun move, in which you play music to make enemies dance. And by “music” I mean “one second of gibberish looped ad nauseam.” There’s also some weird pop-whizz sound when you select a level, and the happy-sounding tune you get every time you die gets old fast. It just feels like the audio is trying too hard to prove this game is kid-friendly. Granted, the music is fine, and there’s many sound effects that work, but some other noises will assault your ear drums.
JUJU doesn’t bring anything new to the table, as it’s largely derivative of other (and better) side-scrollers. It’s certainly not for anyone looking for anything new. Even so, I can’t say this is an absolutely terrible game. JUJU is obviously marketed towards kids, and kids would probably love it. It’s also not the worst game to play if you’re stuck being a five-year-old’s co-op partner. JUJU isn’t a broken game, and it plays well enough, but it’s nothing more than an awfully dull rehash of better games.
Score: Skip It