JUJU Review – A ‘Mario-Donkey Kong-Sonic’ Clone That’s Fun but Fails to Stand Out

I can’t help but feel as if I’ve played this before. That was the first thought I had when diving into Juju with my six year old son. Borrowing heavily from platformers of old, most notably the king of them all the Super Mario franchise, there is little that Juju does to differentiate itself from its inspirational predecessors. It’s a 2D platformer that will see you bouncing off bad guys, hunting for secret areas and collecting little baubles all along the way. Sound familiar yet?

Following on the ‘I’m sorry but our princess is in another castle’ routine the game sees its two main characters on the hunt to save a wise old Shaman Bear that they unwittingly got captured. See the wise old shaman climbs this fancy pyramid and performs some ritual with this fancy staff and when his back is turned the little jerks go ahead and mess with the whole thing. Of course this unleashes some long contained evil forces and a super-giant mega evil bat thing swoops down and flies off with the poor witch doctor. In a last ditch effort to ensure the survival of this vibrant world he tosses our little heroes a magical mask before being whisked off to his doom. Thus begins their journey to save the day, or the princess, or the bear… you catch my drift.

“The drums are both a cute addition and a minor annoyance all rolled into one… OOGA CHAKA, OOGA CHAKA!”



The game itself is divided up into four very colourful worlds with a number of stages included in each. In order to progress past them your cute-as-a-button little hero bear must simply reach the end. Of course there are bosses and hidden stages and gems (insert bananas, rings, coins if you’d like) to collect for earning medals along the way so it’s a little easier said than done. Classic platforming is the order of the day here as you jump, bounce, dash, dive and climb through the various obstacles set in your path. Oh, you also get to stop and play the drums every once in a while. The drums are both a cute addition and a minor annoyance all rolled into one. At first you’ll get a kick out of the incessant ‘Ooga Chaka, Ooga Chaka’ drum beat and how it sends enemies off into a trance while they dance their cares away but it tires quickly. The drums can also be used to open up secret areas or trigger various events and eventually feel like a halt to the action as opposed to a fun inclusion.

I don’t feel as if I need to go too deeply into the gameplay mechanics due to their ‘been there, done that’ feel but I should mention the difficulty. Juju is clearly geared towards the youngest ones in your family and was marketed as a game that parents could enjoy alongside their little ones. As an adult you should be able to breeze through from start to finish with minimal challenge. You can up the difficulty of course but I don’t see many adults really caring to. There just isn’t enough here to engage anyone past their teens. Now the kids should definitely enjoy themselves but spikes in difficulty (mostly with bosses) might stump them. As was the case with my own kid it was mostly screams from the living room of ‘DAD, I’M GONNA THROW THE CONTROLLER! I’M SO ANGRY AT THIS GAME RIGHT NOW!’ Difficult spots of note, and frustration, are the secret areas that are a one and done situation and bosses where difficulty ramps up alarmingly. If you fail the hidden areas you need to replay the whole level to access them again and they can be tricky. Most players will give up on them rather than going back four or five times to the same level.





Playing through on co-op is the way to go for kids because they can pilot the second lizard character that tends to get it easier out on the battlefield. Bosses will target this character less for example. Also, if one player dies off they always come right back so unless both people die off at once it makes it much easier to complete levels. This should remove the frustration for some of the little ones if mom or dad can stomach the 4 to 5 hours it’ll take to run the game (minus exploring for hidden stages and retries mind you).

What Juju does have going for it is its presentation. Each and every level is an explosion of colour and whimsical looking bad guys. They tend to be much cuter than they should be considering they’re supposed to be evil I say. Still, from the simple jungle you start in to levels comprised of toppled ice cream desserts or floating pool toys there is lots to take in. It’s eye catching and easily holds the attention of the younger set. Older players will quickly notice that each level feels like nothing more than a reskin of the last as the gameplay elements, as mentioned before, are simple and pretty static throughout.

I’ve always been a staunch supporter of the idea that a game doesn’t always need to break new ground in order to be good so I won’t say that Juju is in any way a bad game. I just wish it had something to it that really made it stand out from the impressive list of amazing games it so clearly borrowed from.

***Reviewed on Xbox 360 via code provided by the publisher***

The Good


The Bad