Juju – Preview

Title   Juju
Developer  Flying Wild Hog
Publisher  Flying Wild Hog
Platform  Windows PC, consoles TBA
Genre  Platformer
Release Date  2014
Official Site  http://www.jujuandpeyo.com/

It doesn’t matter how monotone or predictable things get within the games industry, you can always rely on a good old fashioned platformer to restore your faith in the medium. At least, that’s part of the appeal behind Flying Wild Hog’s latest title, Juju, a quirky platformer that is both colourful and cute in equal measure. The premise behind the game is as straightforward as they come: Juju is a young panda on a quest to rescue his father, Jumbee – a powerful shaman, who has been captured by the evil being Calypso. Juju needs to collect a series of powerful items in order to have the power to free his father and defeat Calypso. He doesn’t do this alone though, as he’ll have his lizard friend Peyo and his father’s powerful shaman mask to aid him.

Juju and Peyo have an array of powers on hand to aid them in their challenge. Both of them have dash abilities to move quickly around the landscape, to engage or avoid enemies, and Peyo has his lizard’s tongue for ranged attacks. Both characters also have the ability to play music using drums, which can be used to stun enemies and activate puzzles. The developers assured us that there are more abilities and skills on offer in the full game, which is reassuring because at the moment there isn’t enough identity for either of these two to be standout characters for a full game.

There is a large amount of gems to collect as players move through the thirty levels that are on offer. They are usually found in a variety of ways but are most commonly found in plain sight throughout the levels. For every hundred gems that are collected the player will gain an extra heart to defend against enemies. If you lose that heart, though, it’s gone forever and can only be reclaimed by collecting another hundred. This system means that players don’t become overpowered but nor is it too difficult to play.

There is a focus on cooperative gameplay in Juju and it is geared towards being challenging for adults but also inviting for children. The cute and colourful art style helps with this and no-one can deny that the palette is varied, engrossing and bright. The colours and style remind me of a cross between Yoshi’s Island and Donkey Kong Country. The developers went on to show us one of the boss fights which, on this occasion, involved fighting a giant octopus. They explained that players would fight each boss twice and this would unlock new skills and pieces of the item they were collecting to save the day. The octopus in question proved to be a little tricky until you worked out his patterns, at which point he was something of a pushover. It was never a question of hitting him directly and more about solving environmental puzzles in order to harm him; Flying Wild Hog is aiming for a less violent approach to their boss fights.

As the presentation drew to a close the developers stated that they were aiming for a Fall 2014 release and that the game just needed some final polish before it would be ready. This concerned me to a degree because I don’t feel like there is enough variety to sustain a full game. However, this is based on little exposure, so the finished product may very well offer a deeper, richer experience. Currently though, I’d recommend keeping an eye on Juju because Flying Wild Hog has got a good foundation, they just need to build on it some more.

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