In the distant future, the food chain has been disrupted, and plants are at the top of the pile. The flora has gained sentience, sprouted little arms and legs, and are wielding guns but no one quite knows how or why. That’s the basic premise behind Juicy Realm, a top-down shooter game by Chinese game studio SpaceCan.
Think along the lines of The Binding of Isaac and Enter the Gungeon, but with a whole lot more colour and whimsy. You choose to play as one of four explorers – The Ninja, Botanist, Mercenary, and Boxer – tasked with uncovering the secrets of this strange new land, and each have different health pools, stamina, and a unique starter weapon and gear item.
Initially, I leaned towards the Ninja because he’s got fabulous spiky blue hair, like Sonic the Hedgehog, and starts with a huge blade called BlinkStrike. His gear consists of a little device that you can unleash to stun the fruits and veggies.
But as you try out all the characters, you’ll realise that each have their own charms and playstyles. The bespectacled Botanist has a BB gun that makes cute “pop!” sounds when firing, and a grenade as his gear.
The beady-eyed Boxer is armed with a Sig229 pistol, and her gear is health potion that places a circle of healing to restores some health. Lastly, the Mercenary has a large gun called the Yellow Submarine, and can put down a tiny turret to help damage foes.
The game mechanics are simple enough – fight your way through throngs of fruits and vegetables, take down a boss, and move on to the next themed area. As it is in roguelikes, death is final in this realm, and you lose all items collected and start back at base camp upon death.
Gunplay is responsive and satisfying, especially the different sound effects for various weapons. You can carry two weapons at a time and there’s a decent variety of both melee weapons and guns.
The developers seemed to have let their creative juices flow with the weapon department, and encountering new ones as you venture along is a big part of the fun. When it comes to melee weapons you’ve got baseball bats and wrenches, but in Juicy Realm, you can also bash fruits with a baguette and the sound waves of a screeching chicken toy.
The guns are where things start getting silly. There are regular ones like a shotgun, uzi, AK-47, and revolver, but then there’s the fireworks blaster, a GG keyboard that fires projectiles that read “GG”, and a personal favourite – the Steam Gun, that fires discounts out from the Steam logo.
Steam sales for everyone!
The choice of which two weapons to carry is entirely up to you, although having one melee and one ranged weapon would be recommended – melee for in case you run out of ammo and to deal with smaller, harder to hit fruits like the tiny blueberries, and guns to deal with the gun-wielding and charging foods that you best keep a distance from.
Weapons can be obtained from reward boxes that drop when you clear each area, but drops are entirely random, and you don’t necessarily get better loot the further you progress, so it’s a roll of the dice. Areas also contain breakable crates that have a chance of dropping food, health, and energy to refill stamina, which brings us to one of the drawbacks.
Stamina is tied to a dash, your only movement ability which jets you a short distance in a direction of choice. Yes, there are power-ups to collect along the way which extend your stamina meter, but these are few and far between, so the long cooldowns between dashes get incredibly frustrating and make boss battles a challenge even on Easy difficulty (scales to Normal and Hard).
As for the bosses, their designs are delightful. Look at this fella!
Awww, how could anyone shoot at a derpy, googly-eyed watermelon? But as time goes on and you go again from the start after dying, fighting the same first boss over and over again gets tiresome, as nothing changes from run to run. The pre-boss levels are supposedly randomized for replayability, but everything starts looking samey, and feels like just a few level designs being rotated.
One small gripe is that key bindings are not customisable, and it would be great if the game allowed you to set your own key bindings. But controls are simple and easy to pick up.
Things get especially frantic in multiplayer mode, as the game supports 2 player local multiplayer. You can revive your downed teammate and even steal coins (used to purchase ammo and food from vending machines) from them. Double the players means double the chaos with bullets flying every which way, but working together makes defeating bosses slightly easier with double the firepower.
But really, what’s the reason why you should give Juicy Realm a go? It’s the art. The graphics are gorgeous and the colours pop out. There are mean-looking apple thugs strapped with machine guns, but also adorable scarved strawberries. There’s a wealth of creativity on display, and areas are also filled with details such as dandelions bursting with a soft “poof!” when you step over them.
Environments range from forests and deserts to glaciers. In fact, the art is practically wasted on a roguelike game, as you get to enjoy the characters and terrains of the later levels much less compared to the earlier ones.
Overall, Juicy Realm is the type of game you probably won’t pick up again once you’ve completed it, as there’s not much in terms of replayability. But for only S$10 on Steam, it guarantees at least a few hours of gameplay, with the wonderful art making you want to push on just to see more.
Juicy Realm is available on Steam at S$10.00 for Mac OS, and Windows.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Adorable graphics and interesting weapons make this roguelike shooter a joy to play.
Gameplay - 7.5/10
Story - 7.5/10
Presentation - 9/10
Value - 8/10