Humans, despite our lack of brute strength, when compared to other predators in the animal kingdom, have managed to stay on top of the food chain due to our innovation, particularly when it comes to the creation of weapons.
But, what if another species suddenly developed weapons as well and decided our time as king of the jungle had come to an end? And, no, I am not talking about Charlton Heston against a band of royally perturbed, highly intelligent apes.
I am talking about an enemy that seems far less likely to arise, but if they ever did, man would find they have a bone to pick with us: sentient fruit.
Juicy Realm Review
Juicy Realm is a roguelike in which you’re taking part in an ongoing war against cognizant crops of various berries, pomes, and melons.
Notes left behind by a brave, or foolish, observer provide some context for the world in which you now find yourself. However, it doesn’t take more than a few seconds of gameplay to figure out regardless of why or how these once docile and delicious eatables are out to kill.
Equipped with weapons ranging from dual-wielded swords to portable Gatling guns, the fruit prove to be formidable foes.
You have the choice to stand in the shoes of four different character types who come with varying stats and starting weapons: the Boxer, the Botanist, the Mercenary, and the Ninja.
All, except the Ninja, begin with a gun. The Ninja is the only one who begins with a melee weapon in the form of a giant sword. Between playthroughs, you can choose to switch out characters by going back to camp, but not during a play session.
Each character also comes with a unique item/secondary weapon classified as “gear” that cannot be dropped or replaced during combat. The Botanist comes with a grenade launcher type weapon. The Ninja has a tiny, mobile companion that can be dispatched to electrocute enemies. The Mercenary can set up a turret that sends single blasts toward approaching enemies. And, finally, the Boxer can use a life potion that refills portions of her HP as long as she stands within the glowing, green circle.
Once a character deploys their gear, a meter on the bottom of the screen empties and then slowly refills, indicating when the gear can be used again. the time between uses is long enough that you don’t depend too heavily on them as a sort of trump card during combat.
However, they do give some characters more advantage over others.
For example, the Boxer’s life potion and high beginning HP do make her easier to use than, say, the Ninja who’s beginning weapon, as badass as it may seem, make him far more vulnerable to attack since he must engage enemies at close range.
His companion, however, being mobile is far more useful than the Mercenary’s turret which requires you to lure enemies close to it before it becomes useful.
In this way, the developers of Juicy Realm have done a decent job of establishing a simple balance between characters and requiring you to use each character slightly differently during combat.
I do wish the game allowed you to compare the stats of each character’s starting weapons along with their other stats. Without this information, I had no way of knowing whether there was a specific advantage to any of the guns over the others, or even how the Ninja’s sword stacked up against other melee weapons I found throughout my journey.
The game does give you some simple stats for new weapons you find but unfortunately does not offer a way to compare them to weapons you are currently carrying.
A recent update improved the attack power of melee weapons, thus making their use feel a bit less like an unfair disadvantage during combat. This is especially important since weapons are dropped or discovered randomly.
So, if you end up running out of ammo and need to use the baguette you just found to defend yourself (yes, a baguette), you are not at the disadvantage you once would have been before this was corrected.
In fact, I often noticed certain melee weapons could take out enemies in two hits when the gun I was using took at least four or five shots. The advantage of the gun, obviously, is that I can keep moving and stay much farther away from enemies during a firefight.
The only issue, however, with the game giving you melee weapons is as effective as they may be, you are literally bringing a knife (or, rather, a wrench) to a gunfight. Some of the enemies can shoot three shots in quick succession. Others can fire multiple rounds one after another.
When there is a cluster of enemies, this makes using melee weapons quite difficult and made me wonder a few times why melee was available at all, or at least as common as it is, within what is clearly a dual-stick shooter type game, along with its roguelike elements.
In order to help players maintain use of their guns longer, the same update that increased melee attack power also added random enemy ammo drops. This means that while you can indeed run out of ammo, I rarely did. I was quite thankful I did not have to battle a boss with the baguette.
Plus, blasting away your equally equipped fruity foes was far more fast paced and enjoyable than the comparably slow melee attacks.
Aside from locating weapons and ammo at random, you can also break open boxes to reveal food which will restore your health.
Coins that you can either find or collect from fallen enemies can be used to purchase randomly generated items from vending machines you will find also at random throughout your run.
Keep your eyes open because “hidden” areas will appear that, though not hard to figure out how to get to, can offer extra coin or food or ammo. The game’s controls are smooth and straightforward. On the keyboard, you use the mouse to aim and WASD to move about. You click left to fire and clicking right on the mouse allows you to dash a short distance in the direction your mouse is pointed.
This works especially well when in close combat with an enemy that can fire several shots in succession, but I found I rarely needed it when using a firearm because all I needed to do was keep moving about.
Just like with the gear, there is a meter that depletes each time you use your dash ability which will need to refill after a certain number of uses before you can use the dash again.
The game also has controller support, though I found aiming with the mouse much simpler than the dual-stick controls on the controller. There is no way to customize the controls using either, but with such simple design, I didn’t feel the need to do so.
Boss battles have a traditional Zelda-like feel, requiring you to learn a series of attack patterns in order to achieve victory.
For instance, the first boss I fought, a giant melon, had four basic attacks: a dash, a ground pound, shooting several rows of wooden spikes, and setting loose a gaggle of tiny watermelon slices that are surprisingly aggressive despite their tiny appearance.
I quickly learned I could not do any damage unless the boss was momentarily incapacitated. So, I had to learn how to make that happen.
Of course, this means you will likely die at least once or twice before reaching your goal.
Punishment for death means going back to camp and starting over again. This might seem likely a heavy price, but due to the constantly changing level layouts, I never felt like I was making the same run twice.
On the downside, though, without any real way to upgrade or customize your weapons or characters, the multiple run-throughs begin to lose a sense of reward aside from hopefully making it all the way through.
The game is rather short, at least, so I never got to the point where I lost interest entirely. But, if I could customize my weapons or my character so that each run-through at least rewarded me with something that would make tearing through the same levels much faster and with more satisfying violence, it might raise the replay value quite a bit.
As it is, you can play against your own time once you finish the game, but there isn’t much else to keep you coming back. Unless that is, you want to play through with a friend using the local two-player mode.
Despite its tendency to perhaps be a bit overly simplistic, Juicy Realm boasts gorgeous visuals and a handful of different level designs. From dense jungle to desert sands, the vibrant, stimulating colour palette paired with the jovial soundtrack adds a level of excitement and wonder.
Juicy Realm is visually stunning and offers a fun and funky experience as you take on heavily armed and furious fruit.
The controls are simple and easy to learn, and the game is short enough that even though you only get one life per run, you won’t get too perturbed with inevitable death before reaching the end.
However, lack of an upgrade system lessens your initiative and fails to add due incentive to try again, particularly once you have reached the end.
Without another hook aside from beating your own time, or playing with a friend, Juicy Realm is good but fails to differentiate itself among the plethora of roguelikes and dual-stick shooters at least as far as gameplay goes.
However, despite areas where it lacks, Juicy Realm runs well and offered enough fun to keep me going again and again until I reached the end.
If you are looking for a simple introduction to the roguelike genre, this is a good choice. If nothing else, you’ll certainly never look at fruit salad the same again.