200% Mixed Juice ReviewSam Barnette
You know a game will be interesting when you can say the title and it sounds like a bad mixed drink. 200% Mixed Juice is a game filled quirky characters and a plot line that, when inspected, seems as if it came from a seven-year-old girl's fever dream. In my play-through of the game, I was at first confused and felt as if I were reading poorly written fan-fiction about characters I knew nothing about. The game has what I'm going to call the "I'm a JRPG excuse" in that, like a lot of other JRPG's, it feels the need to add in quirky dialogue and characters believing this will make the game more likable. That is to say, I actually liked one or two of the characters and actually remember one or two of their names; Tomato and Jonathan.
As far as plot is concerned, I don't feel as if everything was always clearly explained. Even the title gives no actual help in this regard, as, apparently, the title is one big metaphor for the plot. The main antagonist, not named here for spoiler's sake, set about an entire cataclysm for giggles. I honestly can't tell if this is good, as it was with Kefka in Final Fantasy VI, or just lazy writing by development teams with names like "Orange Juice" and "Fruitbat Factory".
Visually, the game looks good. The character designs are good, if you enjoy little chibi anime sprites. However, there were some characters, such as The Manager, who look like a drunken self-portrait done in Microsoft Paint. The backgrounds look as if they were shoved through a pixel filter, not such a bad thing considering the dialogue boxes and combat covers most of it. I quite liked the music, if only because I enjoy 8-bit gaming music. The music in 200% Mixed Juice is very upbeat, except during bosses, which is a nice change of pace when most boss music we hear is mostly triumphant brass sections. If there was one thing that sold me on this game, it was defiantly the music compositions, and no, that's not just because I'm a band nerd.
The game mechanics are, in a word, basic. Using a more visual model, you could use the combat scenes to teach young children about three colors and basic arithmetic. Unlike in Final Fantasy, you cannot run during combat, even if the foe you're fighting is severely overpowered. That said, I was in the final chapter after about five hours of game play, showing that combat is not hard in this game. Unlike in say, PokÃ©mon, your strengths and weaknesses are based on rock-paper-scissors in that each character has one as their "type" and one is stronger or weaker than the other. Also, you can only have three members in your party, and with eighty characters; that's like trying to pick three out of four children to take to Disneyland, while the other has to wrestle bears until you're back. Another mechanic unlike in Final Fantasy, you're moves and abilities are based of dice rolls that add to your current ability points, as opposed to having one bar that transfers between battles, this can be good in some cases, but annoying when you only start out with two, roll a one, and you need four to use a move that will reflect a lot of enemies' attacks back at them. Also, fights are one-on-one, meaning that you cannot pull off major strategies like in Final Fantasy and must rely on beating opponents with one character until one of you makes a disgusted face and fades into the background. Despite having an exploration system more linear than the first dimension, a lot of the fights seem random and pointless. Each stage has the same number of fights, all ending in a boss battle, then being whisked off to the next stage. This may just be a personal peeve of mine, but if you offer a certain mechanic that seems fairly basic, such as mixing traits of your characters, the design should not wait until the end-game to give it to us. I enjoy experimenting with my options; it gives a sense of individuality and creativity; however, don't wait until I've already invested a lot into the set-up I have, just to tell me I could have developed this a while ago.
In my final assessment, I'd say it's not a bad game. Yes, it's short and has quirks, but once you actually play it, you'll see the quirks make the game. Some of the writing was good, and I even smiled at a few of the jokes or fourth-wall breaks, a constant feature throughout the game. I was not able to review the multiplayer mode, as I could not find anyone with whom to play online, and being the hermit that I am, I didn't really have many people to tell about the game. As far as the single-player aspect goes though, I would call it "JRPGs for Dummies" as the mechanics are stupidly easy and isn't as deep or challenging as other games. If you are expecting big challenges or a game you can sink a lot of hours into, this probably isn't your best choice.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.