There are plenty of serious shooters out there with realistic physics and guns with real-life characteristics. With Juicy Realm, developer Space Can decided to go in a different direction. This top-down shooter is still set in a post-apocalyptic world, but instead of zombies, mutant Nazis, or Sky Net, humankind is being eradicated by…wait for it…fruits and vegetables. Yes, apparently all those fears of genetically modified organisms were justified, and I am pretty sure the vegans were the first to go. Can you save the world from the weakest part of a 5-course meal (the salad, duh. So sad I had to explain that)? This is our Juicy Realm review.
Juicy Realm is a pretty straightforward game. At its base, you are getting a dual-stick top-down rogue-lite shooter. Sorry for all the hyphens, but if you close your eyes and imagine all those words mashed together, what you envision is exactly what you will find in Juicy Realm. The concept has been around for years, and Space Can didn’t add anything to the recipe other than the weird premise of using fruits and vegetables as your foes. But that isn’t really telling you anything you couldn’t figure out by checking out the game’s Steam page. So why play the game you ask? Well, let me tell you why.
First off, there is a very little learning curve, and that’s a good thing. Unlike many games nowadays spending an hour or two just getting you through the tutorial, you will have made several attempts to clear the first few levels in that same amount of time in Juicy Realm. If you have ever played a top-down shooter before, then you know exactly what you are getting here. You can go old school and use the keyboard and mouse to navigate and aim, or plug in your controller and use that. Both methods work well, so it really depends on which one you prefer. There is the option to go solo, or if you have someone else sitting nearby they can jump in and you can play together. Having a partner can be handy since your teammate can revive you if you die, allowing you to move ahead instead of having to start over.
Choosing your character is pretty simple as well, with four choices available: Ninja, Botanist, Boxer, or Mercenary. Each character starts with one of two weapons slotted, as well as their unique gear item. Weapons can be swapped out when you find one more to your liking, with both melee and ranged weapons available. You also have the chance to get a random boost such as increased health or speed from chests scattered about the levels. Unfortunately, this is the only type of progression Juicy Realm has to offer, and it is more just random luck than progression.
You are able to play solo or duo. Keyboard and controller are both supported, so the two player option is easy to set up. There isn’t any split screen, so you are figuratively chained to your partner, but having a partner in crime can be a lot of fun. Bullets will be flying everywhere, and when you get taken out by a samauri watermelon or machinegun toting tomato, your partner can get you back into the action, albeit with just one hit point.
There is a bit of ingenuity in how each plant attacks. While the apple uses an actual gun, the avocado spits its pit at you, which then explodes. Even when you kill it, the pit sits on the ground and explodes after a few seconds. Other types will shoot thorns at you, while blueberries may seem harmless at first, they jump on you and cause damage over time until you mash your attack button long enough to throw them off of you.
There are plenty of crates around that drop food (replenishes health) and coins, and every once in a while you will find a special crate on a level that will offer up a weapon or other boost such as a battery that restores some of your energy bar. There is no guarantee you will find one of these crates in the first couple of levels, and the item inside is subject to the RNG, but finding one often gives you a speedy path to the next boss. Along with random crates, clearing a level will get you a bonus chest.
After killing a boss, you get to reload at camp. There are vending machines to replenish health and ammo, and a piggy bank available to store any coins you have found to that point. There is also a random chance to come across captives as you fight through levels, and rescuing one will add a vendor to your camp. These vendors are persistent, giving you a leg up on any further restarts. This may sound good, but all it does is take a fairly short game and make it even shorter.
This review was done on PC through Steam, and there is the promise to launch later this year on PS4 and Switch. The Switch would be a great platform for this type of game. With death generally happening in thirty minutes or less, Juicy Realm’s playstyle would be a perfect time killer while you are out and about. Adding more depth to the progression system, and hopefully more levels, would take the game from its current state and make it a game that could achieve a much higher rating on future platforms.