Sometimes you just need to zone out, listen to some good music or your favorite podcast, and lose yourself in the flow of a game. I tend to forget this sometimes, so this past week I indulged and let a preview copy of JUJU from Flying Wild Hog be that game. And it felt really really nice.
In JUJU, you play as a small pink bear who has accidentally unleashed a malicious force into the world when play-copying a ritual the bear sees its father performing. You have to go around collecting little gems and defeating bosses… controlled by the evil bat monster you unleashed? It’s hard to say. But plot is definitely not the reason you’ll be playing JUJU, most likely.
Although the plot is unclear, the game’s style definitely isn’t. Each world’s set of levels have a distinct feel. One world may be jungle-themed with little porcupine and crab enemies while another world is toy-themed with yo-yos and toy-people in your way. The puzzles in these levels are fairly easy, even on the normal setting where you only have 2 hitpoints. If you’re having a tough time you can switch to the easier setting with quite a few more hitpoints.
JUJU is a simple little platformer whose main hook is the local co-op. The secondary player, playing as the cute lizard Peyo, takes less agro from bosses and uses his tongue as a ranged attack. That mechanic combined with the friendly and bright art style and the low difficulty makes this game great for parents introducing their kids to games. It’s also good for people like me who are generally bad at platformers but want a little mind-vacation in the form of a game.
I love games like The Floor is Jelly and FEZ, but they definitely require me to pay attention and think through the puzzles. And that’s definitely not bad! But JUJU fills in a much-needed gap in my games library that I forgot needed filling. Once I started playing JUJU and got into the flow of the game, it struck me like bricks. “OH YEAH. I can just queue up some podcasts, lean back, and collect all the shinies. I don’t have to think about what I’m doing in a game all the time. And it’s so… relaxing.”
Obviously this isn’t a problem for everyone – heaps of people only play games like this and only play games to relax. But for someone who plays a lot of MMOs and plays a lot of games while keeping a critical eye to them for the purposes of commentary and reviewing, it’s easy to forget to just play games to relax sometimes.
Another thing I really enjoyed about JUJU was the shiny collection. Growing up with games like Banjo Kazooie and Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the need to collect and gather up all the shiny doodads in a level became ingrained. And JUJU definitely feels like a hearkening back to those style of games. On top of the gems in the overworld of each level, each level has 3 hidden rooms with timed gem collection. Get all the gems in time, get a token. Collecting tokens and finding secrets like the doors allows you to unlock the Hardcore and Time Attack game modes as well.
The only time I switched to the easy mode was for boss fight levels. Really the bossfights in JUJU aren’t difficult, not in the way we might usually think of a tough bossfight. Like many fights, the key is to wait until the right moment when the boss shows its weakness and then attack that weakness. The problem with the fights in JUJU though is that that key moment only lasts for a few moments and then you have to wait through a very long cycle of other animations and easy-to-doge attack attempts from the boss. Most of the bosses go down after two or three hits. But the fights feel like the drag on forever because of the attack and animation cycle. This is probably the only downside the game has, but luckily there aren’t too many bossfights to deal with.
If you’re looking for a easy, relaxing platformer then look no further than JUJU. If you’re looking for a game to play with younger children or someone who isn’t used to conventional game mechanics, JUJU is definitely a great choice.
JUJU will be available on Dec 10 on Steam, XBox 360’s Live Arcade, and the Play Station Network for PS3.
The game key for this review was given to me by the game’s hired PR company.