I’m a man who likes a modicum of challenge in his video games, so it goes without saying that I’m a massive fan of the Roguelike/lite genre. The sheer amount of hours I’ve put in to The Binding Of Issac across (almost) every iteration of that game should be telling. So when I was asked to look at Juicy Realm, a game based around kicking the piss out of cutesy fruit in a roguelike style, I obviously jumped at the chance. An opportunity I’m not so sure I should’ve leapt at.
Take the fun and interesting mechanics of Enter The Gungeon and Nuclear Throne, throw them straight out of the window and into the trash. Mix it in with massive basic enemy health pools and sprinkle in a lack of variation and bingo, you have Juicy Realm.
Lets get into the basic premise shall we? You are a random explorer tasked with exploring the “newly discovered plant empire”. As simple as you could get really, though roguelikes have never really been heralded for their interesting stories, with The Binding Of Issac probably being the only one I can think of to actually of an inkling of story. As the game sits in the roguelike/lite genre, you can probably guess the game play loop of Juicy Realm. Start off weak, find new items to make you stronger, die and lose everything then restart using the knowledge you’ve gained. Sounds good and fairly standard so far, right? Annoyingly getting stronger seems like an impossible task.
Right off the bat, the first thing I noticed about Juicy Realm was the fact that everything takes an age to kill. When I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. Even the smallest little enemies, which I think are grapes, take more than 1 attack to kill at the early stages and even seem to take forever after you’ve picked up a better weapon. This is by far my biggest gripe (grape?) with Juicy Realm. The early game is frustrating as all fuck due to it taking forever to kill anything and whenever you get a weapon upgrade it feels more like a sidegrade, instead of it having any meaningful impact on the game.
Variety is the spice of life, so naturally there’s no spice in Juicy Realm. Melee and ranged weapons are your choices, with any melee weapon having exactly the same swing arch. If you wanted to stab instead of swing, then my friend, you’ve come to the wrong place. Through my time playing Juicy Realm, I came across the same 5 or 6 weapons each playthrough. The most interesting ones being the Steam gun, which shoots out discounts instead of bullets which really creates the feeling of a Gabe Newell Simulator. That’s a money idea for any game developers reading this. The only other interesting weapon is a keyboard that fires the characters “GG”. As a MOBA player, this weapon actually got a chuckle out of me, at least for the first 3 or 4 shots, after that the joke kinda gets a little stale. Other weapons just vary on the tried and tested Shotgun/Machine gun/Pistol dynamic, with your standard bullet spread and recoil that I’m sure you’ve come to expect from video games at this point.
If multiple characters is your jam, then Juicy Realm has you covered to a certain degree. You can take your pick from 4 playable characters, all having subtle differences. Some characters have higher starting stamina, or higher health. Naturally all characters also start with different active abilities, which all seem pretty useless, and different shitty weapons. I spent most of my time playing as the Ninja, as I’m almost 100% a closet weeb. The Ninja starts off with a sword, which like everything else in the game does absolutely fuck all in the way of damage. He’s also packing a small little robot version of himself, I think, that will stun and deal a small amount of damage to any foes it comes in to contact with.
Obviously, as seems to be the general thesis of this game, abilities have exceptionally long cooldowns. Found an ability you like to use? Hope you don’t want to use it very often cause you’re not going to get much chance.
I feel that I should make mention of something that might actually be the most frustrating thing about Juicy Realm, and I realise I’ve probably said that five times in this review. Your dodge mechanic is tied to a stamina meter, so pretty standard right? Except, like every fucking thing in this game, it takes an eternity to actually recharge. Granted you can find a few upgrades to elongate the bar, so you can have multiple dashes, once you’ve ran out of stamina you better hope nothings charging at you because if it is, be prepared to take some damage. I guess this stuck with me so much, because of fighting the first boss multiple times. Unlike other roguelikes, you don’t have any variation when it comes to bosses, so your multiple runs will be against the same bosses which honestly sucks. The amount of times I dodged one attack from the boss, just to get charged at or jumped on without any means of escape was infuriating. Good game design, this was not.
So now that I’ve rattled off my potential downer opinions of the game, let’s discuss the things I actually like about Juicy Realm. Graphically, the game is absolutely gorgeous. The colour palette used causes everything to pop, from the trees, to the character models and projectiles rocketing toward you. You can really tell that the developers have spent a lot of time on their models. As with everything in this game though, we have the inevitable downside. Though beautiful to look at, the game does suffer from a few strange choices. Trees, shrubbery, rocks and various other scenery will often obscure where enemies are, often making it impossible to tell where you’re taking damage from at times. The second level is a desert area, which in still images is also gorgeous, but playing it is worse than getting sand in your eyes, as there’s a constant sandstorm effect that obscures enemies, bullets, traps and just about anything else that’s there to fuck with your day. As Juicy Realm is a roguelike, being hit by a stray bullet you couldn’t see as it was fired behind a rock, or obscured by a sandstorm really adds to the incredibly frustrating experience that is this game.
I wanted to love Juicy Realm. More good games in the roguelike genre would be good, but unfortunately this just isn’t one of them. With frustrating mechanical choices all over the place, Juicy Realm is an exercise in tedium that I could do without. I wish the rest of the game lived up to the art style, because it is honestly beautiful, but unless you want hours of frustration, I’d suggest that you give the game a wide berth.
If you fancy seeing my initial impressions of the game, I streamed it over on our Twitch channel, so you can check out the VOD of it over on our YouTube (or below):