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Julai (PC) artwork

Julai (PC) review

"Overpriced and Underdeveloped."

It would be wrong of me to describe Julai as bare bones. It would need a fair bit more content before it could justify such a lofty title. Thereís very little going on within any aspect of this game; itís built on the Unity free engine and is heavily comprised of modified assets. Thereís no plot, only one stage and no controller support. Thereís no tutorial, no game modes, no explanation on what youíre supposed to be doing. No achievements, no card drops, no kind of progression. Julai asks you to fly through a singular unchanging, unending environment, randomly spawning one of the two enemy types the game boasts with no ultimate objective in sight. At time of writing, it asks you to pay £15 for this.

Thatís the same price range as Strike Suit Zero, a tenuously similar game in only the broadest genre terms possible. Both are 3D space shooters, but Strike Suit Zero drowns you in options and beautiful deep-space environments. In turn, Julaiís only slightly cheaper than Elite Dangerous which boasts 400 billion star systems. Which is a little bigger than Julaiís one cityscape from the awfully-named Technogenic Planet. Strike Suit Zero and Elite are not flawless games, but theyíre polished and professional efforts, each promising hours of evolving gameplay. Why is this relevant? Because thatís the direct competition that Julai has chosen for itself by indulging in such a ridiculously inflated price bracket. It openly invites this comparison through its own choices and gets stomped flat by it. Itís silly to pretend otherwise.

But letís do a spot of pretending, anyway. Letís pretend that Julai sported a sensible price that people would pay without being infuriated by the threadbare content and borrowed graphical stock assists. It would certainly be easier to be sympathetic to the gameís one man development team, because the entire thing reeks of inexperience. Thereís ideas included that donít lack in ambition, but are inelegant in execution. For example, you have the option to rebuild and remodel your craft as you play, which is a good idea. As you eat damage, parts of your ship explode or fall off, so being able to graft new parts on the fly is an interesting angle. Even more so when it doesnít just pertain to repairs; you can constantly tinker and improve your craft. Eventually, anyway. I did mention that lack of tutorial, remember? Julai just drops you into its world and stuff starts shooting at you, and youíre left to figure it all out for yourself. Sometimes this is an excellent approach and it has a strong narrative worth, making you feel like a small part of a bigger world around you that isnít interested in holding your hand. Itís hard to feel like a small part of an already tiny world, though. Coupled with the lack of care running roughshod throughout the game, Julaiís reluctance to teach you anything about itself just comes across as lazy.

Youíll eventually figure out that your scrapyard ship might control like a 3D space fighter, but attacks like an on rail shooter. You donít need to aim your nose at anything to blow them up and instead have a reticule you can freely control with your mouse. Itís an interesting kind of freedom that lets you act like a gunner as well as a pilot, especially when coupled with the ability to swap cameras to blast away at targets on your rear. Youíll use this to attack the same targets over and over and over again that listlessly explode in begrudging indifference to a tepid weapon onslaught that lacks any real feel of force. Thatís if you can even get to them; for the most part your Julai ship controls competently, but any contact at all with the scenery will bring it to a direct halt. Iíve quit games after colliding a few times now because the craft stubbornly refuses to leave a bit of building or girder it has lightly nudged. Sometimes, you just have to accelerate out of these situations, and you do that using the default keyset that are uncomfortably cramped together. Because you canít remap them. And thereís still no controller support.

Julai (PC) image

Itís befuddling. The craft builder isnít that complex once you spend a fair bit of time figuring out how it bloody works, but other things seem to exist for no other reason than to confuse you. Thereís an option to turn on auto pilot right there on the bottom of the screen, but it doesnít work. And it wonít work unless you pick up a specific power up somewhere out there in the randomly generating, never-ending world of the same building recycled endlessly. Even so, maddening little bubbles of promise crop up. The game world has different weather cycles and you can hunt down vertical shafts that delve into the planetís core for a momentary and slight change of environment.

It reminds me of how I first found out about Julai. I found its launch trailer almost by accident and while there was nothing it could do to hide the stock graphics that looked a decade behind and the music that mumbled inaudibly in the background, it showed the craft drifting through a cloudbank almost leisurely before descending and picking away at the planetside defences. It didnít show much else, because thatís what teasers do; they only show you a little bit of the game. Or so I thought. Turns out thatís pretty much it. And thatís not nearly enough.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (April 17, 2016)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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pickhut posted April 17, 2016:

Well, that's disappointing. I was genuinely curious about the game when I saw it pop up on Steam its first day, but it sounds like a complete disaster based on your experience.

Now I'm curious about Strike Suit Zero... Good thing I have a PS4!
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EmP posted April 17, 2016:

Strike Suit Zero is well worth playing. You'll spend every second you play Julai wondering how the hell they could charge so much for it.

Before I released this, I checked the steam page to make sure the price had not changed (it had not) and found it had several new user review posted on it giving the game a thumbs up. All of them with the same broken English, all of them with only one game to their name. Some of them directly trying to argue that the price is fair. It's great comedy -- like no one would see through that. The game's still awful.
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pickhut posted April 17, 2016:

Just went to see those reviews. Ouch.

On a side note, one of my absolute favorite Steam review features is how you can see each reviewers' play time for said games. Makes it easier to wade through the hyperbole.
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EmP posted April 18, 2016:

They're downvoting negative reviews hard. In a matter of minutes, the one I put up collected almost a dozen downvotes while the only other one not in broken English with only one game to its name is also getting battered. It's hilarious to think that developers actually believe people will fall for this.

After a topic popped on the board basically saying this, the one product/one review accounts have suddenly picked up a second game and added equally worthless reviews to look more legit. This looks like it might be an amusing follow.
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pickhut posted April 18, 2016:

So I was just on Steam, happened to browse past Julai, and I immediately noticed the GLARING -90% week long deal.

That tickled me.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted April 19, 2016:

The same thing happened after my White Mirror review. I find it a little odd that most of the reviews there that aren't in broken English are negative
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EmP posted July 17, 2016:

I had a look back on this today, for the sake of curiosity. The price has since been permanently nuked down to the 90% off 'deal' of £1.59. It's still a poor game, but at that bracket, you can be more forgiving.
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EmP posted May 11, 2017:

Imagine my undying surprise as I decided to look back at this game and discovered The following

Seems I now own a discontinued game. You can all be jealous of me now.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted May 11, 2017:

Oh dayumm!

I checked back on White Mirror after reading this. The reception has shifted from "mostly positive" to "mostly negative."

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