2D platformers come in all shapes and sizes and Juju is one that doesn't deviate much but remains a solid experience from start to finish. Fans of the genre will find some enjoyment in it, but is it worth a download? The short answer is... probably.
Juju stars a pink panda of the same name who looks like he goes to Eugene Levy's eyebrow stylist. As his father (Jambee) performs his routine ritual, Juju and his lizard pal named Peyo sneak up to the altar thus causing all heck to break loose. Way to go, kids. Before Jambee gets taken away by the evil spirits, he hands Juju a mask to help him on his journey to seal away the evil and save his dear old dad. I guess that's one way to teach your kid to clean up after his messes.
The first thing that you'll notice after you turn on the game is how brilliantly colourful everything is. Each environment is cohesively composed of suitable eye-catching visuals whether you're visiting the jungle, a toy-land, a beach world filled with inflatable scenery, or a land made of desserts. Juju and Peyo (along with all of the various enemies they encounter) are well animated as illustrated by the tubby little Juju as he struggles to run, and bosses as they don dastardly facial expressions. The soundtrack is composed of cool island jams that emphasize Juju's laidback nature. Sound effects are spot-on interpretations of the events that they represent. Some add a great deal of depth to the audio as exemplified by the music becoming droned out when Juju goes underwater or when slide-whistles signify changes in stage layout. Item-collecting triggers random tones so it never becomes repetitive (unlike a lot of other games in the genre). Juju's high-pitched voice adds a layer of frivolity when you hear him grunt or sing a song while he bangs on his drum. Overall, Juju consists of an impressive combination of brilliant colours, wonderfully animated characters, and top-notch audio.
Controlling Juju is simple and easy. Besides moving him left and right and jumping, you will also discover a handful of abilities as you progress through the game. Such abilities include being able to bang on a drum and sing (which makes enemies dance and activates certain objects), hover after jumping, dash, and throw a ball. All of these actions are executed seamlessly although a couple of them require some caution. For example, you have to hold a button to continue playing the drum until the object responds, so you will have to learn to not just tap the button and expect results. Also, there is an ability where Juju will pause in mid-air then slam to the ground by tilting the stick down. If you're in the air but want to get down in order to duck under a projectile then you must counter-intuitively wait for Juju to land then push down or else he will get hit. Issues like this are rare and you will learn to overcome them. Therefore, the controls generally do their job quite well.
Juju consists of four themed game worlds with eight or nine levels in each. The levels themselves are pretty lengthy considering they will take you about a few minutes to casually complete each of them. You will find collectables referred to as amber that will award you up to three coins according to which threshold you've reached by the end of the level. You can also earn a coin for each bonus round you complete and most levels contain three of them. Although this sounds like a lot, the bonus rounds are actually one of the biggest disappointments in the game since they repeat way too often. I would have had more fun simply discovering a collectable as opposed to discovering a warp to a bonus round that I've already played five times in order to unlock a collectable. Upon obtaining all of the coins in a world, you will unlock a bonus level. Getting all of the coins is a rewarding feat that adds quite a lot of replay value.
You can play through levels in normal difficulty with two hearts or easy difficulty with four hearts. Also, you can unlock additional ways to play such as hard difficulty (which only grants you one heart) and time attack. These couple of challenges are fun to take on but the menu interface makes these features hidden and confusing since there is almost no text whatsoever. The symbol for easy mode is two gold hearts while hard mode is a mask. Why wouldn't the developers use words in the menus to make things clearer? It's a frustrating practice that is becoming alarmingly more common and it needs to stop.
The entirety of the game is quite easy. Advanced players will have no problem breezing through which may end up taking away from the amount of satisfaction that you'll get from Juju's journey. That being said, the unique and memorable boss fights can be rather exciting. Most of the bosses take up a large portion of the screen and perform a wide array of interesting attacks as you run around trying to figure out how to hurt them. Each level in Juju is a good time but the bosses are definitely a highlight.
If you're feeling lonesome then you can play cooperatively with a second player who controls Juju's lizard friend Peyo. There isn't much of a difference in gameplay while playing cooperatively since there are no mechanics where you can work together with your partner. In other words, each player basically advances through the level however they wish. This can be fun if you want to play with someone but it doesn't do enough to add to the experience.
Juju is a pretty solid 2D platformer that looks and sounds great. Although the game is a bit too easy and there are issues that will probably annoy you, fans of the genre will enjoy the time that they spend with the little thick-browed panda.
- + Animated and colourful characters and worlds
- + Boss fights are challenging and fun
- + Solid amount of collectables and challenges add quite a lot of replay value
- - Bonus rounds are incredibly repetitive
- - Menus contain only symbols that are not always self-explanatory
- - The majority of the game is too easy