“What the hell were you thinking?” I shouted, as I burst into Flying Wild Hog’s Gamescom booth. “You made games about shooting people in the face and slicing demons to little bits! Why make a platformer? Why have cute, cuddly animals in it? Why call it ‘Juju’? Whyyy?”
Well, I’d like to imagine that it happened this way, because it makes for a neat opening paragraph. However, I still asked those questions during my hands-on presentation, and Sławomir Uliasz, writer and game director, was more than happy to answer them. In fact, he thinks that all of their games have a lot in common, as they cater to an old-school, hardcore gaming audience. Besides, after their debut title, Hard Reset, Flying Wild Hog was actually split into two teams. While one part of the studio developed Shadow Warrior on behalf of Devolver, the other half silently tinkered away on Juju, which will be self-published. You certainly cannot blame them for not wanting to get stuck in one place and evolving as a developer.
In any case, what’s really important is that Juju is a title for the gamer crowd, despite being a candy-colored sidescrolling platformer about a young panda and his lizard friend in search of his kidnapped father. Inspired by genre classics such as Donkey Kong and the last Rayman titles, Uliasz sees Juju both as a tribute to these games as well as a distillation of their best features into one neat package. With 40 different levels, multi-staged boss fights, as well as lots of collectables and secrets, it should offer a good amount of jumping and running.
The game is designed for both solo play and local co-op. It’s worth noting that Juju offers an asymmetrical co-op experience, where Peyo, the little lizard, is easier to play than our eponymous hero. It looks like a neat move to get parents playing with younger kids, and there are a couple of features which make the game even more accessible. For instance, as long as one player lives, the other cannot die and is able to resume the game almost instantly. Then there’s chanting, which stuns all enemies on screen by making them dance. Juju just oozes cuteness.
I tried my hand at a couple of pretty diverse levels and I’m happy to report that the game’s learning curve is literally less than two minutes if you ever played a platformer before. Controls feel super-smooth and fans of the genre should feel right at home with Juju. Flying Wild Hog certainly weren’t joking when claiming that this one is also for the hardcore crowd. A later bonus level led to lots of swift, hilarious deaths. Juju has the looks of a kids game, but those looks can be deceiving. I’m pretty sure that gamers of all ages will have their fun here.
Juju is one of those titles that came out of nowhere and then instantly got me very excited for its release. The little purple panda will make his Steam debut sometime this fall.