One element that many Japanese-style games have in common is the inordinate amount of text thrown at the player. So much in fact, they wind up more as e-books with some directional choices added for variety. From early on, I always wondered about this…why cut-scenes seem to go on for half-an-hour (some actually do) and why the main game play is just riddled with words. One possible answer came from a Japanese associate of mine, and makes complete sense.
Kids here in the U.S. are presented with a single phonetic alphabet comprised of 26 letters. True, said letters can exist in four conditions (lower case, upper case, cursive and printed), but the values themselves equal 26 in number. Children in Japan however, don’t have it so easy. In addition to a 48-character phonetic letter system (known as kana), students as early as Grade 1 must begin learning traditional Chinese characters (called kanji). About 80 kanji are actually taught in Grade 1, with over 100 additional kanji presented in each grade thereafter! So it’s not surprising that reading-practice is well tucked into every part of young Japanese life. In fact, nobody really knows how many Chinese-based characters there are; even scholars never catch ’em all. So when translating such Japanese-style games into other languages, the result is the same: voracious verbosity.
We now present 200% Mixed Juice! from Fruitbat Factory; a wordy adventure suitable for readers of all ages. Perhaps you remember an earlier game called 100% Orange Juice! from the same developer. Is our current title perhaps a sequel? It is not. Whereas the older entry is largely a board game (with cards included), this newer product is more of a light combat adventure (with cards included).
The story begins simply enough. You are awakened by a little angel (looks more like a flying bladder) who instructs you to get ready for school. Before you make it to class, you encounter a new friend, the first of many “cards” who will join your “deck” of available combat minions. You can also purchase minion cards directly from vending machines. This will cost you “stars”, which are earned from victories in battle. Cards bought from machines will fight just as loyally, albeit with less cordiality than those met randomly in the wild.
Soon you will accumulate an impressive deck, but keep in mind that only three cards may be used in a given battle. When you meet an adversary, you have a chance to sift through your deck and select the trio of your choice. While the cards themselves display your minions’ hit points, level bonuses, etc., by far the most important feature is the “hand” symbol (shown as a green, red or blue icon).
The icons represent familiar rock-paper-scissors gestures. The red fist is “rock”, the green hand is “paper” and the blue peace sign is “scissors”. When entering combat, look closely at your minion’s options. You’ll notice that one of these gestures is associated with each type of attack. Next, examine your opponent’s chosen attack, and its corresponding icon. The last step is easy. Simply choose the action that causes you to win the rock-paper-scissors. Early foes will instantly fall to your superior tactic. Later on, enemies acquire better defensive and parrying abilities. Nonetheless, sticking with the hand gesture method should ultimately win the day.
Upon arrival at school, your adversaries come out to play. Be sure to visit all the rooms, enlisting any help you can find. This is important, because once the “elementary” foes have been dispatched, its off to the open road…where who knows what dangers your little deck minions will find.
Overall, is 200% Mixed Juice! worth it? Yes, but perhaps not for the oldest among us. It’s a great application of rock-paper-scissors, and can be a fun way for parents to teach the concept to their kids. However, I would like a way to turn the hand icons off; a way for players to calculate options based on combat experience. This could include a countdown timer as a sort of memory test. Take too long to decide an action, and your opponent gets an extra “first strike”; something like that. As it stands the game is fun, but in that repetitive way that children enjoy…knowing their deck is stacked heavily in their favor.
As of this writing, the game is still in early access. I’m sure we’ll see more ingredients added to the juice box soon.