JUJU – Preview
Follow Genre: 2D Platform
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Publisher: Flying Wild Hog
Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Tested on: PC

JUJU – Preview

Good: Vibrant art style, beautiful soundtrack
Bad: Repetitive bonus levels
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10.0
(1 votes)
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Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)

The guys over at Flying Wild Hog are known for their violent track record. With Hard Reset, its sequel Exile and the bloody Shadow Warrior under their collective belts, you would expect them to continue unleashing first person carnage. And yet, here they are, presenting one of the most colourful and – dare I say – cute games I can remember playing in a while. JUJU is a 2D action platformer which throws together all clichés of the genre, but does so with such fierce cuddliness that it’s very hard to blame it for its lack of originality.

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The storyline, while shown in a beautifully animated intro cinematic, is one we know since the days of Sonic the Hedgehog. As the panda boy Juju and his trusty lizard friend Peyo are playing in the woods, Juju’s shaman father Jambee heads out to perform his daily rituals. As you might expect, it all hits the fan pretty quickly as Juju and Peyo playfully misuse Jambee’s altar and accidentally break a mystical key, sending its four parts to as many outreaches of their island.

They unleash an ancient spirit that does not seem all that happy about having been Shawshank Redemptioned, which it shows by kidnapping dear old Jambee. As papa Panda is taken, however, he succeeds in throwing his magical mask to the children. As you can already imagine, it is this mask that will help the duo to find the key parts and eventually save Juju’s father from the clutches of his captor.

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Perhaps the greatest asset of JUJU lies in the graphics department. Of course, gameplay will always supersede visual prowess, but the island has this distinctive look to it. Clearly inspired by the recent Donkey Kong games, its colours are so vibrant that it actually makes me a little sad when I look away from the screen. If only our world could be as colourful as this one… But I digress!

The developers market this game as the perfect experience for children and adults to share with each other, and the art style makes this perfectly clear. While it has the visual fidelity, beauty and fluid animation that any adult gamer will certainly enjoy, it also bears a cartoonish streak that is sure to entice children never to look away from the screen and see the bleak reality… Damn it, moving along!

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As brilliant as this cheeky platformer might be to look at, an even more impressive feat is the flawless sound design. I regularly found myself thinking of Rayman Origins and Legends while my ears were treated to a mixture of an orchestral soundtrack and cartoonish gameplay sounds.

While it might not exactly be new to hear orchestral music in a game, JUJU manages to convey the right emotions at the right time. These are tunes that will not leave my playlist for a while, I can promise you that. It’s pretty much impossible not to be cheerful while listening to these, so what could anyone have against that?

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I have already referenced Donkey Kong once in this preview, but nowhere is this source of inspiration as clear as in its 2D platforming gameplay. Juju and Peyo run and jump their way through the island, their skills slowly evolving throughout the game as they slay boss creatures. As their most basic of skills are a charging punch (think of Kong’s somersault) and banging the drums (think of Kong’s ground bashing), it almost seems as though this game is made to honour the friendliest of apes.

The last skill I mentioned actually ties in pretty well with the overall look and feel of the game, as the drums are a very fun way of interacting with the environment. By holding down a single button, the player can make Juju put on his mask and summon two drums to bang like there’s no tomorrow. When in the proximity of enemy monsters, this makes them dance feverishly, which allows players to easily slay them. In other words, this is the perfect way for smaller kids to stun the enemies and have an easier time conquering the levels.

Sadly, in copying Donkey Kong’s design philosophy, Flying Wild Hog also seems to take over its faults. The preview levels I have played each contained three magic portals, hidden throughout the maps, which transported our fluffy adventurer to bonus levels. After counting them, however, I noticed that there were more fingers on my right hand than there were different kinds of bonus challenge. This means that in the full game, this might get very repetitive, very soon.

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Conclusion

After having played about a dozen levels of JUJU, it’s fair to say that it certainly has what it takes to become an awesome platformer. Its awe-inspiring visual prowess and vibrant art style will draw in children and adults alike, and the overall simple controls and level design are sure to provide many an afternoon of family fun. However, in order to become a truly memorable experience, it will need to increase the variety of its bonus levels. Oh, and bring in more pink pandas. Who doesn’t love pink pandas?

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Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
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JUJU - Preview, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
Tom Cornelis
Tom Cornelis


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