JUJU Review – Rainbow Hopscotch (PS3)
Since its announcement, JUJU has been billed as a colorful and unique platformer. It’s a game that is supposedly set to challenge the gaming world of brown and gray with its unique blend of colors across the spectrum.
If I started and stopped playing the game all within the first world, I would have called “BS” on that notion. This platformer’s greatest advantage is, in fact, its unique environment design. It’s not just the colors, it’s the worlds themselves. You’ll move from a rather boring jungle to the likes of a toy land, dessert land and pool toy themed tropical paradise. I sort of wish the game wasn’t marketed with these levels, because their inclusion and constant change up was a great treat for me while playing.
The issue is that the mechanics at the center of JUJU were designed with lesser experienced players in mind.
This One’s for the Kids
The way the best platformers truly succeed is by teaching core mechanics and then throwing constantly evolving challenges at players. You’ll learn how to jump, and then the game will slowly but surely elevate the difficulty of jumping over larger gaps and onto tiny and moving platforms in order to test you. Or, say, you’ll learn how to hover, so the game will throw interesting hovering challenges your way for entire levels.
Think about Rayman Origins and Legends, for example. JUJU is a lot like Origins in that you earn a new platforming ability with each world. Unlike Origins, though, JUJU never really evolves too much beyond introducing the ability and challenging you once with it. It never gets tough, which is annoying even for younger players. The game should be a breeze for adults, sure, but it shouldn’t be a breeze for its target demographic. As it stands now, it never challenges anyone.
JUJU is simplistic, easy and repetitive. The environment changes are great, but you’ll sometimes spend just a little too much time in one world than you’d like. I was entranced by each new environment when I first saw it (especially the pool toy world with soft polymers), but that entrancement slowly faded into being tiresome after a few levels.
Environments Offer a Temporary Change of Pace
What you will find out about these environment changes is that they’re little more than palette swaps. Sure, there are new colors and textures, but the enemies are exactly the same beneath the change. The toy construction workers with hammers are exactly like the gummy bears with half-eaten lollipops. They just look different.
Which is the nature of JUJU at its core. It’s fun while it lasts, though you’ll be required to forgive it for its simplicity and ease. If you have no need for a platformer that’s way too easy for an average gamer, you’ll want to stay away entirely. If you game with a younger player, whether that’s a sibling or a child of your own, JUJU is accessible enough to work for them.
If we step back, though, and tell ourselves that JUJU is a game we’ll play with our sons and daughters (or that we’ll buy for them to play by themselves), its value skyrockets. You can hand you younger player a controller and let them play as Peyo while you roll driver as the pink panda. The advantage Peyo brings to younger players is that bosses are less likely to target them during play.
Do It for the Co-op
That’s what keeps me from railing on this rather derivative affair too hard. It’s a tight game that works well enough to appease those who are less experienced with platformers.
I suppose the only real thing that might frustrate younger players is how odd the hitbox around your character seems. I’d jump past or swim by enemies with obvious space between myself and their bodies, but it would count as a hit against me as I’d somehow manage to touch them without, well, touching them. That was annoying for me, but once I figured out the problem I was able to mostly avoid it. A newer gamer might find a lot of frustration in this small flaw, especially if JUJU‘s purposeful design is already a challenge.
I hate to make it seem like I absolutely despise JUJU. That’s not the case at all. This is a cheap game that will entertain those who play it as long as they maintain the right mindset. My issue is that the developers were trying to create a platformer easy enough for a new player while fun enough for a vet to stay involved. This was a game I thought would be great for coop with a youngster. The problem is that it doesn’t build upon its own mechanics enough to keep dad, mom, big bro or big sis entertained.
That’s JUJU‘s biggest problem, and it’s a tough one to solve.
Review copy provided by the publisher. For more information regarding our review policy, please read our review policy here.