What do indie developers have against fruit? Were their childhoods ruined by biting into maggot-infested apples or bananas that weren’t quite ripe? Usually we’re chopping them up like ninjas or matching them in trios until they pop with an addictive saccharine effect. In Juicy Realm, we’re just straight-up murdering them. Of course, these are basically mutant fruits – horrid pineapples who are as abrasive as they look; avocado firing the pit inside them like cannons, perhaps revenge on all those millennial breakfasts? In this realm, they’ve taken over the world and a group of fruit hating youngsters have to work their way through levels bursting with pith to revert the world to its fruit chomping normality.
Juicy Realm is a rogue-like. Let’s get this out of the way; there are a lot of rogue-likes out there now and most of them ape a handful of very successful titles which paved the way for the genre. This isn’t always a bad thing, most ape them very well, taking features from one and expanding them before adding their own spin on features from another. Juicy Realm is a bit like that, there’s some Nuclear Throne in there, a blob of Isaac and a literal dash of Enter the Gungeon – you can dash through shots fired, much like the roll ability in Gungeon. It’s a good concoction, full of character, charm and great mechanics which make for a great foundation.
As with many games of this ilk, we start by choosing a character. Each has a different special effect which can be used within battle – posting a turret, for example, or creating a shadow version of themselves to aid in a tough fight. Along with these, each character has different stats and health bars. There’s enough variety here that the first character I choose saw me easily sail through the campaign without dying, but subsequent choices made that a tough hill to climb.
To add even more difference between the characters, they all start with a different weapon. Some are melee – which are a pain to use, more on this soon – and others vary through projectile guns with a punch or more pathetic whimpers. It matters not, as soon as you start exploring, you’ll get your grubby juice stained hands on many more options.
So, about that melee option. It’s pretty useless. Enemies all fire in different ways, which is to be expected and learned. Now, I think the melee hits are supposed null these shots if you hit them… well, sometimes they did and sometimes they didn’t. It was hard to tell if the mechanics were bad or I was. Either way, whenever a melee weapon was found I’d pick it up (to add it to my unlocks) and promptly put it back down. Thankfully you can recycle each gun you throw aside for coins which can be used in the shops you’ll find scattered throughout the levels. I always opted for a gun.
Because the guns are damn good fun. You can carry two, which means with some clever switching you can cycle through the pair constantly shooting. Some enemies die faster from a good old-fashioned bullet, whereas a laser would peel their health away instead. It’s all about finding that sweet spot, sometimes literally. Each enemy has weaknesses or tricks to fighting them, this is seen commonly in the bosses. I cursed the damn Watermelon whose shell had to be chipped away before I could get to that sweet flesh beneath!
Sometimes (oftentimes) it wasn’t just me doing the damage – there’s a co-op mode which I didn’t have chance to try out because my friends are useless – I’m talking about the pets you can buy in-game. There’s a chicken who drops bombs, a tiny baseball with a bat who fires shots back at enemies like a Jedi mascot and a number of others who breathe fire, help you shoot or create general chaos. None of them are bad and all of them are uniquely designed to look as if they’ve stepped from comics or old Warner Bros cartoons.
At this point in the review, I’ll get the general verdict out of the way for reasons which will soon become clear. This is a great rogue-like; yes, it borrows ideas from other games, but what doesn’t nowadays? The visuals are cute, witty and crisp, looking like a great cartoon adventure full of interesting characters and enemies. The music is top-notch, as well as the squelchy sound design. Nothing ever really feels overly cruel, even on the hard mode which is unlocked after your first win.
And here is where I could simply carry on writing until the editor tells me to stop, because the game is chock-full of things to do and unlock; a big overworld bursting with extra characters who unlock new modes of play or weapons to find; random chests which seem like a nice jab towards loot boxes, dolling out a risk vs reward system; there are debuffs you can add to your game in order for better loot rewards; I lost count how many guns there were, which can all be upgraded; there are nice hidden areas, mini-bosses who burst with cash to be used in the random washing machine which takes 50 coins for a random prize.
Now comes the thing I wouldn’t normally do in a review, which is tell you to buy it. Usually I’d end with a nice summary, but I won’t here. Because a game like this will be lost on the eShop. It will be passed over because it has a bit of a silly name and isn’t headlined by a massive studio. In fact, I doubt many buyers will even check out the screenshots, but they should. And you should play it, because it’s simple fun which can evoke the days of old arcade classics about nothing more than having a good time. It’s daft, it’s a little rough around the edges in places and only a few of the things it does are new. But it would be an absolute crime for it to go un-played.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by X.D. Network