Can this Namco published physics puzzler from Bad JuJu keep up with the Joneses?…
We got hands-on with this game at E3 a few weeks ago. In fact it was displayed on a number of iPhones and iPads at Namco’s booth. Nathan previewed it then and from the little he played concluded to me that it was a solid but forgettable experience.
After playing through the 9 chapters, I tend to agree. The game is of the casual variety and sees you guiding cute characters called Mooniacs through various levels as they seek out their lost friends and their stash of JuJu Bees. As you find your friends you unlock the ability to play as them, with each having slightly different abilities. The JuJu Bees themselves act as currency of sorts which, if you collect enough, will allow you to move onto the next level. It’s a system and structure that you see time and again in iOS puzzle games, and here it’s no different.
The gameplay is physics puzzle based with each level comprising of a selection of JuJu bess out of the reach of your character. Using your character as a catapult you must capture as many bees as possible. You can use the characters ability (generally the way it bounces due to it’s shape) to ricochet off walls, platforms and sometimes soft bouncy objects to get the best trajectory and collect the most bees. At the end of the level you are rated on your performance out of stars, this rating is based on the percentage of bees you collect, as well as special bonus bee collection and the time you completed it in. The more stars you are awarded, the further you can progress.
While the presentation is very slick, with cute and well drawn characters and background art, and easy to navigate menus… not to mention the extremely catchy music (you know you are in trouble when you catch yourself whistling it!) the gameplay on-the-other-hand is lacklustre for its genre, falling short when compared to the likes of Angry Birds and Cut the rope. At a time when other games are pushing the envelope in physics, Mooniacs comes across as very basic in comparison. To me it’s missing a real sense of achievement when completing a level, even when completed fully. Success seems to come down to luck, with too many possible outcomes to succeed. It just doesn’t engage enough, and can almost be played in the background without too much brain power needed. Frustratingly, in the last few chapters, the better physics puzzles begin to appear with the addition of wind. However, it’s all ‘too little, too late’.
Bonus level packs may ease this pain, which can be bought with real money as packs, or you can wait and use a neat collaborative online leaderboard feature. As players collect more juju bees they are entered into a global pool that will eventually unlock new level packs for all players to use. Ultimately though unless Bad JuJu can up the ante with more devilish physics puzzles that can rival the best of Angry Birds and Cut the rope, then I fear that Mooniacs will become just another ‘also ran’ puzzler on the AppStore.