Game: "Juicy Realm"
System: PC
Genre: Action
Published by: Other

Reviewer: Dr. Boogie
Posted: 5/16/2018

Review: Whenever a new roguelike comes around I get excited. The best parts of a roguelike are knowing that with a combination of skill and luck, even your first playthrough could end with you becoming supremely powerful and blowing through the final boss like nothing. Conversely, you could just as easily wind up with a collection of useless weapons and abilities, skidding to a halt two levels in. That's why I look forward to shooters the most. The RPG roguelikes tend to railroad you with stats and such so that you wind up losing the numbers game as enemies wind up taking less damage while doing more, but the more action-oriented shooters give you a little more wiggle room to make up for losing out to an RNG.

Put an assortment of anthropomorphic fruit on the other end of your roguelike shooter and you've got Juicy Realm. If there's more to it than that, I haven't gleaned any of it from the few scattered notes in the levels that serve as a perfunctory backstory to you using your guns to juice the realm. Longer notes before the boss fights allude to some kind of emerging intelligence among plantlife, but it matters so little.

Far and away, the strongest part of the game is the art direction. Juicy Realm goes in a similar direction as Enter the Gungeon with its downright adorable melons and pears. Admittedly it would be a bit tough to have a game about shooting fruit creatures that aren't cute, but developer SpaceCan has done a good job of creating some vibrant enemies and heroes alike. Enemies in particular are animated so well (especially in death) that you won't mind seeing them over and over again.

That's the game's big weakness: the smallness of scale.

Roguelikes are meant to be played over and over again. Juicy Realms is no different, but each playthrough winds up being fairly similar to the one before. A stage is made up of three levels and a boss fight, but each level is typically no larger than a single screen. New weapons appear as rare drops from treasure chests and in-between stage stores, but I came across the same weapons several times in a row, even within a single session! And the powerups, the other component that empowers a roguelike to give you a good time or a night of frustrated hair-pulling, are all but non-existent. You'll find items to boost your dash meter, refill your health, and that's pretty much it. Even something as basic as increasing your total health or your special weapon meter are nowhere to be found in the game.

On the other hand, all of this appears to be a deliberate design choice. The limited amount of weapons and abilities can make the tougher fights more annoying, but it never feels like you're completely screwed because you went two levels without finding a new weapon/ability. And the flip side to having a four stages of short maps is that you can clear (or fail) the game pretty quickly.

In short, Juicy Realm is a more casual roguelike. There's nothing inherently wrong with wanting a little less exacting from your vidya games, but your mileage may vary depending on what you're looking for in a roguelike. You can be done with a successful run just shy of an hour, so at least you'll have more opportunities to try again and see if the next run goes any better.

Juicy Realm is out now for Steam, with the PSN and Switch versions due out later this summer.

Overall rating: WholeWholeWholeHalf
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)

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