Reviewed: September 24, 2003
Released: August 13, 2003
Mojo! is the latest puzzle game to arrive for the Xbox and for $10 you won’t find a more addictive little title. Developed by the twisted geniuses at FarSight Studios, Mojo! takes the concept of Marble Madness to new and much more challenging heights by creating some interesting rules based on colors, an exaggerated sense of physics, and some truly challenging levels.
The concept is simple yet the gameplay is twisted and insanely challenging. You start off with a marble, a very HEAVY marble that controls like bowling ball and you are a mouse pushing it around with your nose. There are multi-colored blocks on the playing field and you must destroy all of these blocks before you can destroy the ice blocks freeing the trapped Mojo. Sound easy? Here are the rules.
Each time you exert control over your marble you use Mojo. This means you have to make each change of direction count. Due to the overwhelming momentum of your playing piece you can’t make abrupt changes. It’s best to move slow and make sweeping turns or try to plan ricochets off the wall.
The biggest hitch in the game is that you can only destroy blocks that are the same color as your marble. You can change the color of your marble by passing through color infusers, but many of these are stashed in out-of-the-way locations or trapped behind other colored blocks, so in the later levels it can become quite complicated trying to figure out the order you need to attack the blocks. But that is the nature of the puzzles. It even gets more challenging when keys and locked gates are introduced and these can only be operated when your marble is yellow.
As the game progresses the levels become more challenging, both in design and the patterns of the blocks. In the beginning you have nice little walls that keep your marble safe, but soon the walls are gone and one wrong turn sends your sphere sailing into the abyss. There are no lives or limits on your continues, but each “death” results in some more Mojo loss.
You can regain your Mojo by destroying the ice blocks, but these can only be destroyed after all of the colored blocks are gone. Mojo is never really an issue in the beginning of the game but in later levels when you have to start using the boost power to get up hills or quickly change direction, and when falling off the world becomes more commonplace it can get a bit tight. Running out of Mojo is the only way to really lose and even when this happens you just pick right back up at the last level.
Levels are timed and records are kept for the three top finishing times. There is also a target time for each level. If you can beat this time you are awarded a bonus infuser that allows you to change the color of your sphere at anytime by pressing the square button.
The biggest challenge of Mojo! is probably the control, which is complicated by some exaggerated physics and some manual camera controls that are constantly in need of manipulation. Your direction of travel is always relational to your camera angle so when you are trying to navigate across a narrow bridge you need to tweak that camera to the perfect rearview or risk a trip into the abyss. Those of you with a great sense of 3D space can probably adapt and play the game from any view, but I found myself constantly adjusting the zoom and the camera height and angle.
As previously mentioned, the physics are insane, but since there is no way to tell whether I am moving a marble or a sphere the size of EPCOT Center I can’t complain too much. Suffice to say that once you get the ball rolling it’s hard to stop and even harder to change directions. You’ll definitely want to keep the speed low and resist panicky turns or sudden movements.
When you have finally conquered the 100 solo-puzzles you can checkout the multiplayer battle modes or take a shot at designing your own levels with the full-featured level designer. Designing levels is incredibly easy and almost as fun as the game itself. There is also a mini-golf type game that is very entertaining and supports multiplayer. All multiplayer games support 2-4 players.
Mojo! has some of the most colorful graphics of any puzzle game since Tetris. Relying on the primary colors of red, green, blue, and yellow for the blocks then mixing in gray stone and white ice blocks you get some pretty elaborate puzzle designs and colorful patterns.
The levels range from hovering platforms in a black void to beach-type levels, marble floored arenas and more. Environmental graphics like trees, rocks, and water all adequate. Textures are simple and effective and everything is saturated with color.
There are plenty of subtle special effects including an abundance of particle effects as your marble smashes through colored blocks or gets “transported” off the playing field – “Beam me up Scotty”. There are colorful bursts as your ball passes through the infusers and swirling energy seems to always surround your sphere.
The framerate on the Xbox version is much smoother than the PS2 and the graphics are definitely crisper making the game much easier on the eyes and offering smoother camera movement and more fluid gameplay.
The music isn’t as moody or cerebral as I would have liked. This is the type of game that begs for atmospheric tunes like Tangerine Dream, Enigma, or perhaps even some Pink Floyd. Being a budget title I don’t expect licensed music and the synthesized tracks that are provided do a suitable job of filling in the silence with forgettable tunes. It would have been nice to have some theme music for each of the environments; perhaps a bit of reggae or tropical music for the island levels. I was sincerely hoping the Xbox version was going to allow for custom soundtracks, but no such luck.
Sound effects are just as few and forgettable. You have the frequent and repetitive sound of your marble smashing through blocks and the pinball-like sounds of the ball rolling around and bouncing off the walls or other indestructible objects. It’s nothing fancy but it all works.
For a game that is designed to be played as fast as possible it lasts a good long time. Some levels take 40 seconds and others take 4 minutes. You’ll easily spend 10+ hours finishing all the levels and even more if you want to beat your records or get those par times.
The multiplayer battle modes are a total blast and the mini-golf is great fun as well. The Xbox version adds the exclusive cooperative play mode where you can tackle the single player stages in split-screen mode. There is also a level editor that is easy to learn and fun to use. Those of you with a creative streak will add endless value to an already great bargain – did I mention it’s only $10. You’ll get your money’s worth the first time you play it. Anything after that is just gravy.
Easy to learn and difficult to master, Mojo! is a puzzle game that will appeal to gamers of all ages. The simple color-matching gameplay principles will test the younger kids and the complicated puzzles and tricky control will challenge their parents. Even if you never explore beyond the initial 100 levels you are guaranteed to get your money’s worth with Mojo!