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Waited So Long

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When I first heard about Juka and the Monophonic Menace well over a year ago, I nearly crapped my pants with anticipation.  The detailed graphics, Orbital Media’s excellent track record, and the unique gameplay were all pointing to an original GBA game that had potential to be declared as one of the last great games for the dying system.  The developers were even kind enough to let me interview them (which can be found by clicking the “Interviews” link on the left).  Having the honor and privilege of conducting this interview only heightened my anticipation to enormous levels.  Unfortunately, even though the game was near completion, Orbital Media hit a snag by not being able to find a suitable publisher.  Therefore, Juka has been on the delayed list for a very long time.  Having patiently waited like a school girl by the front door for her first date, I felt relief in finally being able to play the game that I have been drooling over since July of 2005.  Was the long wait worth it? Unfortunately, I am going to have to say no. 

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Continuing the tradition of creating highly detailed 2D sprites, Juka is without a doubt a beautiful game.  Built strongly around the use of the primary colors, everything on screen looks incredibly clear, especially on the nice backlit screen of the GB Micro.  Too bad the gameplay does not contain the same level of quality as the visuals.  Using a tedious and uneventful combat system brings something definitely new to the table, but throws the pacing of the game to a snail’s crawl. 

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Set in a captivating time period, the landscape is blended with alchemy, nature, and technology.  Juka, a rather unlikely hero who wears a funny looking hat, is set to right the world using his sound staff.  You see, ancient citizens of this land once used sound to manipulate technology.  And apparently Juka is one of the few who can wield this magical sound stick, which leaves him the responsibility of saving the world from an oncoming war. 

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Combat is not your usual cup of tea in Juka and the Monophonic Menace.  Set in an isometric view, Juka does not simply walk up to an enemy and snack them upside the head to injury and eventually defeat them.  Instead, the player must gather ingredients and combine them to make potions.  All potions are made via the menu screen, selected by tapping the Select button.  Strangely enough, the Start button is not used in this game. 

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Creating potions to be used in combat is a unique and innovated gameplay element, but instead of enhancing the overall fun factor of the game, it slows the pace and satisfaction of the game to a crawl.  Each potion must be mixed in the menu screen after the enough of the specific ingredients have been collected.  But since there is no bookmark feature, the player must remember each recipe for every potion.  All recipes can be looked up from a separate menu screen, which means, the player will be seeing this screen very often.  After all this extra time and work has been completed to make a potion, its effects are rather unsatisfying.  Unlike every other video game in the world, Juka does not kill or vanquish his enemies.  Instead, he puts them to sleep by whipping a potion at their face.  The reward for putting these tedious potions together is extremely boring and will let the player down.

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Because fighting enemies basically can revolve entirely around throwing sleep potions at baddies, combat becomes dreaded.  In fact, combat can be so much like a chore, it might be avoided all together by running around incoming threats. And when certain enemies are within proximity, a mini game of sorts might take place.  The player then has to catch incoming geometric shapes with the sound staff, kind of like a Jedi deflecting laser bolts from an Imperial trooper.  Chasing shapes around the screen seems more fitting in some type of children’s game than in an adventure RPG.

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If the potion system was not annoying enough, the spoken dialog between characters will also raise a few eyebrows.  Most characters speak as if the player knows he is playing a video game.  In many cases, Juka will converse with his toad-like friend.  But their conversations are just a cheap way to hold the player’s hand through the early segments of the game.

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The audio department has been designed with care, especially since the title of the game contains a musical theme. Just like the graphics, the sound quality is done quite well for a GBA game.

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Juka is not your typical adventure RPG game.  Instead of creating an immersive platformer with solid combat elements, Juka winds up being a tedious adventure with chore-like and slow gameplay.  No one wants to memorize 10 different combinations to make sleep potions.  Shaking every tree you run across is a repetitive and boring way to bolster your inventory.  It pains me to say this, but Juka is not recommended.  This game had some killer potential: the graphics are top notch, the setting is very unique, and the story is pretty innovated.  But the meat of the game, the combat and potion creating, results in frustration and interruptive gameplay.  The platforming isn’t exactly where it should be either.  There is no jump button.  Juka automatically hops to ledges when he gets close enough to hang from it.

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It is shame that this game did not turn out as solid as it could have been.  Trying something new is very respectable, but it won’t mean a whole lot if the end result does not come together.  Instead of the potion system, a better and more satisfying combat should have been implemented.  This reason alone is why I cannot recommend Juka.  Instead of playing this game, gamers would be better off trying out Racing Gears Advance or Scurge: Hive. 

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Unfortunately, I now know the reason why this game was delayed for such a long time. 

Exit mobile version