Juanito Arcade Mayhem is an arcade shooter in which players are tasked with saving eight worlds that resemble classic arcade games.
Developer: Game Ever Studio
Publisher: Game Ever Studio
Genre: Arcade shooter
Release Date: August 3rd, 2017
Juanito Arcade Mayhem is an arcade shooter in which a boy named Juanito jumps into his personal arcade cabinet in order to save his games from creatures called Clonocells. He must venture through eight worlds, each resembling a classic arcade game, and destroy the Clonocells that have infected them. Each world features its own unique mechanics that are based on the classic arcade game that inspired it. Along the way, Juanito will obtain various power-ups that will allow him to take on more difficult opponents. An endless survival mode allows those who are looking for an additional challenge to compete with others for high scores on an online leaderboard; they can even play with a friend who plays as Juanito’s alien friend Gluk.
- Classic arcade gameplay with modern twists – shoot at enemies that drop out of the sky and bounce across the ground, grabbing power-ups that they drop on death.
- Unique takes on classic arcade games – play through 80 levels that are based on Arkanoid, Pong, Tetris, and more, each featuring iconic mechanics from the games that inspired them.
- Endless survival mode – compete for the high score in an endless survival mode, complete with cooperative play and an online leaderboard.
By Matt Chelen
We all have some game from some long-forgotten genre that we wish we could relive in modernized form. Unfortunately, it’s not often that this happens, especially in the case of arcade games. More often than not, the developers of modern arcade-style games try to replicate the retro style alongside the retro design. Juanito Arcade Mayhem takes a different approach; it takes from several classic arcade games, adapting key mechanics from them to its core gameplay and offering modern takes on their graphics and music in the process.
The way that such a blending of several classic arcade games is explained is that Juanito is at home, playing games on his personal arcade cabinet, when creatures called Clonocells suddenly infect the games on his arcade cabinet. With the help of his alien friend Gluk, he then enters the video game world and attempts to save his games from the creatures that are wreaking havoc on them.
As far as stories explaining an otherwise random series of levels go, it works. It almost immediately takes a backseat to the gameplay, with most dialogue consisting of random pop culture references and quips about classic games that both are and aren’t represented in the game, but it’s not particularly important to begin with. As an arcade-style game itself, Juanito Arcade Mayhem somewhat foregoes the need for a story that is constantly evolving.
The game world is brought to life by a fantastic art style that mixes elements of both classic and modern animated movies and television shows. Despite the differing art styles of the game’s varying inspirations, everything fits fairly well. Furthermore, everything is beautifully animated and looks great in motion.
Gameplay largely resembles that of a modern take on single-screen shooters like Space Invaders or Galaga. You are allowed to move left and right, shoot upwards, and dash. Various power-ups that enemies drop on death will temporarily change your weapon, temporarily freeze Clonocells in place, and so on, and upgrades obtained later in the game will allow you to charge shots before firing, albeit only on your basic weapon, but the core of gameplay revolves around moving, shooting upwards, and dodging various enemies and shots fired at you. These simple mechanics are integral to the game’s design, as Clonocells behave differently than the enemies seen in many classic arcade games. They drop from the sky and then begin bouncing back and forth across the screen. As you can only shoot upwards unless a power-up for a specific weapon that can shoot in an arc is active, you must walk under their bounce arcs and fire at them from below without letting them hit you. You start with four health and can obtain more by picking up a health power-up; if you run out of health, you have to start the current level over.
There’s a three-star rating system in place that seems to largely be based on how many times you get hit during the current level. The stars you obtain from each level are then used to unlock later worlds, gating your progress if you don’t do particularly well throughout the game. Additionally, one high score is kept for each level, but your scores for the main campaign levels can’t be shared online.
Levels start out fairly simple, with most Clonocells simply bouncing around harmlessly unless they hit you. As you progress, you will encounter increasingly stronger Clonocells that shoot projectiles in set, but varying, patterns and have more health. Other Clonocell variants will leave fires that can harm you or icicles that block your path where they bounce. There’s even a Clonocell variant that can spawn other Clonocells. Overall, there is a decent variety of Clonocells, but I don’t feel that there are enough to keep the game’s 80 levels from feeling fairly repetitive after sometime.
The really intriguing part of the game, however, is the set of mechanics from various classic arcade games that it has blended into its levels. There are currently eight games represented across eight worlds, each of which has ten levels. Some of these, such as worlds that were inspired by Arkanoid and Pac-Man, are fairly interesting. Most, however, are simply amusing and nostalgic. While mechanics like dodging or destroying falling Tetris blocks or dodging Pong paddles and the ball that they are playing the game with are novel, neither is particularly memorable, especially after nine normal levels and a boss level that all utilize the same mechanics.
The Arkanoid-inspired world, which is set in a game called “Arkadroid,” is perhaps my favorite. The reason for this is that the borrowed mechanics make the world feel distinct, but also add a unique strategic twist to gameplay. During its levels, you stand on the Arkanoid paddle with a specific layout of bricks located just above you. Clonocells that drop from the sky will drop on the blocks, slowly destroying them as they bounce around. Similarly, you can shoot at them from below to destroy them; in fact, on many of the Arkadroid levels, you can’t shoot at the Clonocells unless you break your way through to them, but they can shoot at you. As bricks are broken, they will drop Arkanoid-style power-ups that will increase or decrease the size of your paddle. If you pick up a power-up that increases the size of your paddle, you can then use it as a platform for Clonocells to bounce off of, allowing them to safely bounce over your head rather than requiring you to time shots correctly as they fall. It is because of that mechanic that I found this world to be particularly fun.
Similarly, the Pac-Man-inspired world stands out because it requires you to grab a power-up that makes the Clonocells vulnerable to attack before you can shoot at them, a power-up that is similar to that of the pellets that allow you to eat ghosts in Pac-Man. However, it doesn’t have the same strategic impact that the changing paddle size of the Arkadroid levels does.
As mentioned above, the game will slowly introduce new Clonocells and upgrades as you play. Sometimes, this is handled in a clever manner, such as in the Wonder Boy-inspired world, where the fiery Clonocell variant is introduced after erupting out of a volcano; its counterpart, the icy Clonocell variant, is subtly introduced in the Ice Climbers-inspired world. Other times, the game seemingly just decides that nothing’s changed in some time and that you deserve an upgrade. In these instances, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to have given you the upgrade—for example, after completing the boss level of that world. You simply kill a specific enemy, often one that spawns in the middle of a level, and it drops an upgrade.
One odd design decision is that the game only has one true boss, the final boss. Every single “boss fight” features either some unique enemy that simply uses varying groups of Clonocells as weapons in an attempt to kill you or some group of Clonocells that you have to kill while dealing with some other mechanic. At no point do you directly attack your attackers or, in some cases, the friendly NPCs that are doing more harm than good. Instead, you simply kill the Clonocells and attempt to stay alive. While this design decision certainly works, I would have preferred proper boss fights.
Juanito Arcade Mayhem also suffers from an erratic difficulty curve. Three levels could be fairly well-balanced, only for the next one to be excruciatingly difficult, with another two or three well-balanced levels following behind it. This is partially due to the level of randomness that is present in the game. For some reason or other, whenever you obtain a new upgrade, it can be used in older levels, allowing you to more easily obtain higher scores. Perhaps as a direct result of this design decision, all power-ups dropped during each level are completely random. Did a shield drop save your life during your last attempt to complete a level? It may not be there next time. Did a machine gun power-up make one part of a level much easier than it otherwise would have been? Have fun completing that same part of the level with a laser power-up. Because of this, there is no way to truly learn a level and get better at it; your strategies will constantly be evolving as you attempt to adapt to the power-ups you’ve been given. At times, this can be incredibly frustrating, as you may come close to beating a level during one attempt only to lose miserably right in the middle of that same level the next.
However, it is perhaps the random obstacles that are the most frustrating aspect of the game. As an example, during the Arkadroid world’s boss fight, there are objects that fall down the screen in random locations and increasingly erratic patterns. Their locations are completely random to the point that they will create pathways that you cannot escape from. You can shoot them to move them slightly, but the amount that they move isn’t always enough. There really needed to be limitations on the patterns that they could create.
Juanito Arcade Mayhem is a fun modern arcade-style game that manages to fairly seamlessly blend the most iconic mechanics of several classic arcade games into its own while offering beautiful cartoon-styled renditions of many of their characters and locales. There are some issues with the difficulty curve and the level of randomness that is present, which lead to some rage-inducing deaths, but they don’t sour the overall experience. Its parodies are close enough to the games that they are parodying that they will induce nostalgia, but it stands well enough on its own that familiarity with the source material is not necessary. It’s a game that I never expected to exist, but one that I’m quite glad does.