Review: JUJU (PS3)

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Title: JUJU
Format: PlayStation Network Download (2.3 GB)
Release Date: December 9, 2014
Publisher: Flying Wild Hog, Nordic
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Original MSRP: $14.99 (US), €15.99 (EU), £12.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: E
PEGI: 3
JUJU is also available on Xbox 360 and PC.
The PlayStation 3 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

I’ve been a gamer for over thirty years and love most genres. There is a special place in my heart for a platforming game. Now that I have two beautiful girls I like them to share in my passion for games, but sadly there aren’t many good kids games and even fewer that I care to play along with them. It seems to be very hard, almost impossible, to strike that balance of fun for everyone. A decent amount of difficulty that doesn’t become frustrating for any age group is also a must. A sense of accomplishment for all players regardless of their gaming experience is a rarity.

juju-crabIt was a strange realization that the developers at Flying Wild Hog, famed for their very grown up games just made a family friendly platforming title. I nervously sit down with my girls over one weekend and embark on a journey to save the world from an ancient evil.

Gameplay:
Like any family adventure, kids always end up getting themselves in all kinds of bother so JuJu, a little Shamen Panda, and his lizard sidekick friend Peyo are no exception. They accidentally unleash an evil across their land and get JuJu’s father captured in the process. You can play the whole game on your own but I’ve found the best way to play it is with a child. Luckily I have two, so I grabbed the youngest and we played the entire game in co-op.

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There are all the usual controls, jumping, dashing, ducking, and even a ground pound. You can even chant to briefly hypnotize enemies, unlock chests, or open up a blocked path. Both characters have an identical move set but Peyo can also lash out his lizard tongue ensnaring any enemy and eating him in one quick move. My daughter loved doing this and it made defeating enemies a breeze.

There are plenty of levels spread across very different worlds, each with their own unique look. Each level has three hidden bonus rooms to find and plenty of butterfly gems to collect. Admittedly I did get quite obsessive and ended up ‘Joshing’** each and every level, trying to collect every last thing. I should try to rein it back a bit as my girls ended up doing the same.

As the levels progress, you unlock a few abilities like the aforementioned ground pound or being able to swim underwater, without needing air at any point I might add. Which brings me to the most important part of this game, it doesn’t punish the players. It’s forgiving co-op fun that remains challenging enough for all gamers, young and old, regardless of their skills. If a player loses all their health they instantly appear in a bubble which gravitates toward the other player, all the while safe and secure in the spherical thin film of liquid. They can stay in there for as long as they wish, or even hop into one at any point by pressing select. This comes in very handy when trying to traverse a tricky section.

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The only times the players die and return to the last checkpoint is when both players lose all their health at the same time, or when a player dies and the other is lounging about in the bubble. With frequent checkpoints and easy to defeat enemies, restarting doesn’t happen often. Level design is good with a few simple puzzles to overcome here and there along with a few hidden routes or areas which often have some butterfly gems to collect or a hidden bonus room portal. You can revisit any level to try to get a better score and in turn more coins.

One of the best things about JUJU would be the boss battles. From a gigantic toy robot to a grumpy humongous octopus they are varied and brilliant. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone but all of us loved defeating them. You meet each one a couple of times during the levels and don’t have to trudge all the way through a level to experience them, you can instantly jump into the fight from the level select screen.

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There is no text in this game, everything is explained by way of a cinematic opening video and pop-up guide pictures when you first encounter a new move. This is great for everyone including the children who struggle or cannot read. I would have liked some extra content like unlockable character bios, backstory scenes, or artwork, especially when attaining the maximum amount of collectibles for a level.

There is an Easy Mode which you can select from the Level Menu or the game will ask if you wish to switch to it after dying several times. After completing a level you can return to it and try to collect more things or attempt a time attack to see how you fare against the developer’s best. It isn’t the longest game that I’ve played but perfectly held my daughter’s attention the entire time, so that’s fine by me. There is also a one-hit-kill mode for the crazy few that wish to punish themselves.

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Visuals:
The game is simple and easy on the eyes with such care and attention put into each and every single thing that I’m continually smiling. You’ll see a cute clockwork mouse happily bouncing along until you’re spotted, it quickly stops in its tracks, winds up and charges, or an entire world made out of inflatable beach toys, enemies included. This game oozes with family friendly delight.

Slamming into the ground causes the whole screen to shake, even the background rattles or sways with the impact. Each world is distinct and enchanting, with its own enemies and puzzles. It never feels boring and we eagerly ventured into the next area to see what delights it held. The gigantic bosses tower over the tiny characters but never feel menacing or frightening for the younger players. The developers have made good use of the Unreal Engine powering this game, I never once saw it stutter. Loads of particle effects and action continually fill the screen while humorously animated characters, fantastically crafted levels, and some clever set-pieces all combine to make this game a visual wonder.

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Audio:
A charming and whimsical tune accompanies you on the adventure. Lighthearted and fun are the easiest ways to describe the music in this game. Sound effects are also great, very cute and fitting with characters, enemies and levels. Chanting can be done at any time making the characters do a comical dance whilst a catchy little tune plays.

One noticeable thing which some people might miss are the fantastic credits. You can find them on the Main Menu or obviously after completing the game. Be sure to listen to the great song and stick around till the end for an extra little treat.

Online/Multiplayer:
juju-and-peyoDrop in and out local co-op only. It would have been nice to be able to play this with a friend online but then again, you wouldn’t get the fun of sitting next to the other player. This has got to be one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had with my children. We’ve never laughed so much at so many things. It did have a few tricky sections or bosses but because of the bubble saving mechanic it never seemed daunting or frustrating.

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Bosses seemed to target the more skilled player a majority of the time which allowed my daughter to enjoy the experience more without wanting to give up. There also isn’t any sign of competition between players, all collectibles and coins go towards a final end of level score regardless of who obtained them.

Conclusion:
I expected an average platformer with a basic co-op mode but what I got was the most delightfully entertaining family friendly co-op game I have ever played. The entire look and feel of JUJU is wonderful and cute. At first glance the graphics look simple but after a short play you’ll notice the massive amount of care and attention the team at Flying Wild Hog poured into this game. I challenge anyone to not smile at the adorable landscapes and enemies accompanying them. My girls want some plush toys of JuJu and Peyo and are already wishing for a sequel. My only criticism is that it ended.

I want this to become a franchise that continues for years to come, with sequels on the PS4 and Vita. It was an entertaining experience for one and all. I urge you to get this, even if you haven’t got anyone to play it with, this is one adorable platformer that deserves a place in everyone’s collection.

Score:
9.5

* All screenshots used in this review were provided by the publisher.

** Joshing a game refers to PS Nation Co-Host Josh Langford’s penchant for exploring every little corner of a game world while playing, piling on hours of exploration to what would otherwise be a much shorter game.

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Written by Chazz Harrington

Chazz Harrington

You can find me on everything: PSN, Twitter, Wii U, Origin, Steam, etc using my universal ID: ChazzH69

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  • PotatoPower

    Best Juju review so far. And the only one that kids were involved!

    • ChazzH69

      It’s a great game to play on your own, especially at only $15. Fantastic game if you have an experienced player to join you.