Do you want some quick and juicy fun? No, I’m not about to tell you there are hot singles in your area. I’m going to tell you about a new release from indie developer dietzribi. Trouble Juice is a rogue-like, twin-stick, 2D side-scrolling platformer featuring some questionable beverages.
The fast-action gameplay is loosely wrapped in the premise of a Hunger Games-like competition, broadcast across the Universe. Your character will be attempting to clear numerous waves of enemies and fight bosses, all to be crowned champion and achieve their goals.
Forget Hunger Games, welcome to the Thirsty Games
A brief aside before we dive into Trouble Juice. The first commercial game from dietzribi, Toodee and Topdee, has recently been released on PlayStation. You can find my review of the PC release here. Spoilers, it’s an absolute gem.
Although the fighting is quick and somewhat chaotic, the controls are simple. I used a gamepad for my playthrough, moving with the left stick and shooting with the right; classic twin-stick fare. Alongside this, I was also able to jump using the right trigger and activate a special ability with the left trigger. Finally, your character can warp across the screen during a fight. If you exit left, you’ll appear on the right. Falling through the bottom of the screen drops you from the top. This saved my life on numerous occasions.
An alternate control scheme is available in the menu, though I’d recommend sticking with the default if possible. The twin-stick option felt much better after starting with the alternative. You can remap the controls or use a keyboard and mouse if that’s your preference or requirement.
Although each character has a different ability, such as dashing or an electrical blast, I didn’t find myself using them much. Most of the time, it suffices to jump through the screen warp, keep on the move or blast liberally with your gun. That said, I did benefit from Shlomo’s time slow down on occasions.
Stages consist of a series of connected screens, filled with an assortment of platforms. Most screens will populate with enemies shortly after you enter. Their locations are telegraphed with an icon that displays for a short time in the spot an enemy will appear. This allows you to prepare before the action begins. Other screens may have you encountering a mini-boss or a wave of Dark enemies – stronger versions of regular enemies. At the end of each of the 3 stages, you’ll fight a boss before you can continue.
I found the enemy variety to be enough to keep things interesting. Each enemy type exhibits different behaviours. Some will charge you, some will keep their distance and avoid your line of fire while others will shoot back. The bosses are equally distinct from each other. It may take you a couple of attempts to learn their tells before you’re able to beat them.
Juice me up, Buttercup
As with many rogue-likes, upgrades during a run are key. In Trouble Juice, these can be acquired in 3 ways. Firstly, and most often, you will encounter Juice Guy. This is an – initially – friendly NPC who will offer you a selection of random drinks. These act as upgrades. Triple-shot, bigger bullets, double jump, extra health, etc. You can also choose to kill Juice Guy to receive a health point. But be warned, although Juice Guy will still appear at subsequent shops, kill him too many times and you may find his offerings less appealing. You’ll also lose Karma; the currency you need to buy his better Juice options.
There are 2 other NPCs you might meet during your run. One will offer to swap one of your existing upgrades for a random upgrade. The other offers a drink that has a 50/50 chance to be an upgrade or a downgrade. Both these NPCs offer a chance to change your fortunes for free, but it’s a gamble.
Opposing your ability to get stronger are Curses. These are applied occasionally before a Juice Shop or following a boss battle. Each Curse will increase either the number of enemies ahead, the chance of encountering dark enemies, or enemy hitpoints. You can sometimes remove these Curses with certain Juices if you wish to forgo one of the other upgrade options.
I found that I was able to make some crazy builds as I played through the game. One time I managed to stack so many gun upgrades that I could flood the screen with bullets and become almost impervious. It certainly feels good when things go in your favour.
One of my favourite systems in the game is the achievement bingo. There are 25 achievements in Trouble Juice and these are arranged, in-game, into a bingo-style 5×5 grid. As you unlock achievements through gameplay, you mark off the relevant squares on your ticket. If you get a line on the card, you unlock new upgrades in the Juice Shop or new characters/skins for subsequent runs. This is a creative way to handle both achievements and unlocks, and I’d love to see it done more.
Graphics & Audio
The visual presentation of Trouble Juice has been kept fairly simple, though not overly so. The overall aesthetic is bright and colourful throughout. There’s plenty of variety in the enemy designs too, with them being distinct and recognisable. These design differences allow you to quickly understand what you’re dealing with when the waves spawn. The use of different colour bullets for your character and enemies works well to distinguish between threats and safety. Blue enemy bullets can be destroyed with a shot of your own, while purple bullets and ghostly purple orbs need to be avoided entirely.
Stats regarding the current run and your character can be found easily on the UI, which is informative without being overcrowded or overbearing. You can look ahead using the chain of icons that represent the upcoming screens in the current stage. Just below this, you’ll find icons representing active upgrades and curses whilst health, karma, and stamina pools are shown alongside your character portrait in the bottom left corner.
Each stage has a unique backing track, adding to its distinct identity, alongside the changes in visuals and enemies. My favourite track is from the first stage, which when it kicks in at around 30 seconds, is an absolute bop. There is also a rock-style boss theme that plays during the 3 boss battles in the game that will amp you up.
As with any rogue-like, the time you spend with Trouble Juice will depend on a combination of your skill, patience and enjoyment. I beat the game fairly quickly, but I enjoyed it enough that I’d be interested in trying to achieve better speeds. There are 5 characters to play, each has 2 skins. This gives a total of at least 10 playthroughs if you want to earn the champion’s crown with each character. A completed run took me anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes.
I do think the game would benefit from some difficulty options to extend the longevity and provide additional challenges. Settings to increase the number of enemies, decrease the juice shop appearances, limit upgrades or only encounter Dark enemies, for instance, would make things interesting.
Developer dietzribi wanted Trouble Juice to be a smaller project after Toodee and Topdee, so the difference in scope is understandable. That being said, if you enjoy platforming action or casual rogue-likes you’re easily going to find enough bang for your buck here. It’s very much a game that is easy to pick up and sink 30 minutes into, between doing other things. Even whilst writing this review, when I went back to check some things in the game, I found myself drawn in for a couple of runs.
Trouble Juice receives a Thumb Culture Gold Award.
Disclaimer: A code was received to write this review.