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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Scurge: Hive (Nintendo DS)
Juka and the Monophonic Menace (Nintendo GBA)

By Michael Palisano

Orbital Media and Southpeak Interactive have recently released a pair of interesting role playing titles for the Nintendo DS and GBA. Taking players on a magical musical journey, Juka and the Mononphonic Menace is an interesting GBA title that mixes spells, magic and sound to create an endearing RPG with an appealing cast, strong storyline and interesting gameplay mechanics. The futuristic Scurge: Hive on DS has some similarities in terms of presentation, but there's a greater emphasis on shooting and action, making it feel very different. Both titles are fairly interesting and solidly produced, so look inside for our reviews to find out more.

Playing Juka and the Monophonic Menace on the Nintendo GBA immediately brings back memories of simpler times. There aren't elaborate cinemas, overbearing graphics or a post-modern drenching of angst, instead a focus on core gameplay elements prevails. Juka's basic storyline takes place in the world of Obla where the ancients left behind a number of Musical relics and machines that have lent the land prosperity and happiness through the ages. These have gone largely undiscovered until the Drak Alchemists discovered the, and used them to make the settlers' lives difficult. The game follows the adventures of its young protagonist as he explores a colorful world in search of ancient musical relics that will release the land from the darkness that's been tormenting it. Finding these also opens up additional abilities that you can use later on in your quest. Juka's gameplay is fairly straightforward; players can use their magical staff to release notes that cause enemies to fall immediately. Along the way, you can find elements which you can then use to make spells in your bag. At first you have a limited number of spells, but as the game progresses and you gain more elements, you can decide which ones to use. These spells can be used for a variety of functions such as making an opponent fall asleep, opening doors, or to rejuvenate your health. It's an interesting system that's easy to use and understand, while giving players plenty of flexibility in how they want to attack foes.

As far as RPG's go, Juka is solidly entertaining, though not as challenging as you might think. The game's pacing is fairly good and the action unfolds quickly with real-time battles taking place in a variety of locations. You'll face a variety of enemies throughout the game, including some impressive bosses, but the game's light, breezy appeal makes it fun and accessible. There are a number of side-quests and mini-games as well, which keeps things interesting. Juka's quest is fairly engaging throughout, though the overall size and length of the game is a bit shorter than you'd expect it to be. From a presentation standpoint, Juka's top-down perspective is adequate with decent animation and visuals to make things more interesting. A fun soundtrack and interesting music adds to the enjoyment, giving this a polished overall feel. Straightforward controls and interfaces make the maps and menus easy to navigate as well, meaning it should appeal to younger players as well. While it might seem a little bit dated to some, Juka's overall feel and presentation recalls the classic NES Zelda titles more than modern RPG's, and this back to basics approach makes for an appealing and engaging title that should appeal mostly to younger players.

While Scurge: Hive shares some superficial similarities to Juka, the game appears on a different platform and has some features that Juka doesn't offer. Set in outer space, this sci-fi game casts you as a bounty hunter named Jenosa Arma, who's exploring through the galaxy when she suddenly finds her ship over-run by a nasty alien infection called the Scurge. Unfortunately, they have also infected you bio-suit, which can have some unpleasant consequences. It's up to you to find out why they have attacked your ship and to destroy the enemies who come at you from all directions before the infection destroys you as well. An unrelenting pace and a variety of different weapons adds to the fun, though no one is likely to confuse this with Metroid, though there are some obvious similarities. Scurge is more of a traditional RPG/shooter hybrid. This isn't necessarily a bad thing since this simple approach makes things easy to get into. The game's top-down angled presentation is fairly easy to understand, and most of the gameplay involves going from one area to the next in search of the next group to destroy. Players can also collect numerous weapons power-ups, health upgrades and other extra items throughout their journey.

Scurge's plot unfolds at a nice pace, though most players probably won't spend a lot of time worrying about the story. The controls are likewise fairly easy to understand, with fairly simple movement and shooting mechanisms. Menus and HUDs are also decent, allowing you to see your character's status and weapons they have inventoried. This lets you focus your energy on the battles at hand without having to spend a lot of time flipping through options screens. Along the way, players will be able to find eco and other items to rejuvenate their health. This is very important, since the infection constantly saps your strength and power. The enemies tend to attack in groups and these clusters can be dangerous if you don't have patience. Scurge also makes good use of the DS double screen, with a cool map navigational menu that allows you to see where you are and which areas you need to clear out next. It's a fairly simple and straightforward game as well, with a greater emphasis placed on shooting and destroying, with some minor RPG elements thrown in as well. As you navigate and move through the later and larger areas, the game begins to open up nicely, with a large area to explore, different types of enemies and additional items to find. Scurge: Hive isn't the deepest or most challenging game, but it does offer gamers plenty of action for their money. It's a fun title that offers some relatively intense action at points, particularly during its boss battles, but it's nothing too taxing. Scurge is decently produced and enjoyable, making for a solidly entertaining title on the DS that should appeal to younger and more casual players.

Juka Grade: B
Scurge Grade: B

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