Juicy Realm is a little fun twin-stick shooter that is extremely pleasing to the eyes but lacks any real substance.
Genre: Twin-stick shooter
Publisher: X.D. Network Inc.
Release date: 3 May, 2018
In essence, the game is a dungeon crawler that plays like a twin-stick shooter, but the game calls itself a roguelike, so before I got my hands on the game I really wondered if it could bring anything new to the table. I’m not saying that a game needs to bring something new in order to be a good game, but in a time where the word “roguelike” seems to get tossed around quite a lot, the term has pretty much lost its original meaning, so a game might associate itself with the genre, but in fact it barely has any of its core elements.
Like most games in the genre, there’s barely any introduction as to what is really going on in the world, as you find yourself thrown into the middle of a conflict between plants and humans. While there is no dialogue of any kind in the game, there are some pages with a few lines scattered through the levels that provide a tiny bit of background to what’s really going on, but even then, it’s all very superficial and quite honestly, it would probably have been better if the subject was avoided at all.
The player’s journey starts at a human encampment where you’re able to choose one out of four different characters. There’s the Ninja, which starts with a sword and can stun enemies with his ability, there’s the Botanist that carries around a pistol and a grenade, the Boxer that also has a pistol but comes with a healing ward, and the Mercenary that can place a small turret that fires at nearby enemies. This might sound like a pretty decent amount of character variety, but in truth, I found that myself not really using their abilities unless I was the Boxer. The Boxer has by far the most useful ability since if you’re low on health all you have to do is lay low and recover. Besides that, these characters also vary in terms of their movement speed and health points, but I didn’t find these variations to be significant enough in order to provide considerably different gameplay opportunities.
Once you’re out of the initial character selection area you’re thrown right into the very first area of the game, and from here forward it’s always guns blazing until the very end. The game’s structure is laid out like most roguelites that are already on the market, in the sense that you’ll be moving through a total of 4 different zones, with each being comprised of various different areas that fit the zone’s theme. Just like a vast majority of games, you have your forest, desert, and ice zones, with the final one being a little more cryptic. Each one of these areas has its own set of enemy types that derive from the area’s theme, and the same goes for level design, like in desert there are quicksand and cactus traps, while on the ice area you can slide due to the icy floor.
The game initially feels like it has a fairly decent amount of enemy types, which is somewhat true, but given how short the game is, I found myself rather bored since I was facing the same challenges over and over again. For the most part, enemies will engage you with ranged attacks, and if the enemy count is not kept in check, the game can quickly turn into a bullet-hell in terms of dodging and maneuvering around. With that in mind, the last level of each zone puts you against a boss, and these were actually fairly interesting encounters. Every single boss has a weak spot that needs to be exposed before you can deal any real damage to them, and this usually involves triggering some sort of elemental damage or explosion near them so that they get stunned. However, while the bosses are certainly rather amusing the first few times you fight them, they quickly become just another nuisance on your path, as there are only 4 different bosses in the entire game and they all come in the same order as they’re tied to the level order.
Now, weapon variety is actually rather interesting, because you have some unique weapons that are references to other games, even though you still have the most generic weapons like standard shotguns, submachine guns, and pistols. For instance, there’s Steam, yes, Steam, like the video game distribution company. This weapon pretty much looks just like the Steam logo, it fires discount coupons, and whenever you reload you can hear that iconic cash register sound effect. There’s also the Cup, which is a reference to Cuphead, and you also have a weapon that’s been ripped off from some Zerg creature. There is no question that the game has some pretty neat ideas here, as each weapon actually feels and plays differently from each other, but there’s only so much that this can do to make the game more engaging as a whole.
There is no question that the game’s biggest downfall is the fact that, while you’re going around killing all sorts of plants and fruit, while you’re collecting coins to buy new guns or upgrades, you’re still playing the same levels over and over again. There is no procedural generation, each zone is handcrafted, so you can quickly get tired of playing this game if you play it for too long.
No matter its faults, there’s no doubt that the game’s strongest point is its art style, which adds a lot of charm to the game as a whole, and quite frankly, was the first thing that grabbed my attention when I first saw Juicy Realm up on the Steam store. However, in the audio department, there’s nothing really worth noting, and after playing the game for about 2 hours or so, I just started playing it while listening to my own music, as you don’t really need sound in order to play the game properly.
Also, in case you were wondering, this is a game that can certainly be played with a controller, but I definitely find it to be much easier to play with a mouse and keyboard, simply because aiming when using the mouse is much smoother. Still, in any event, you should be fine either way, mostly because the game is really easy by default. Notwithstanding, the game could certainly use some quality of life improvements such as, some sort of indicator that points towards the exit once you’ve cleared an area, and perhaps some sort of minimap. There were a few times where I just found myself exploring the edges of an area just to make sure I didn’t miss anything, and it would be a lot easier, and less time consuming, if you could simply open some sort of map and see what has been revealed and what’s still under the fog of war.
Overall, Juicy Realm is by no means a bad game, it’s just average. The main issue with it is that it doesn’t provide enough content to justify the price tag, especially when you take into consideration other games in this genre at around the same price range. The lack of Steam Cloud support will probably turn some people off, especially those that tend to play games on different computers, and the fact that the game only features local co-op is also a big downer if you’re like me and the people that you tend to play games with are people that you’ve met online. If you have the slightest interest in getting this, I’d highly recommend waiting for a sale.