We’re always glad to give small developers a chance, here at Brainlazy, and you don’t get much smaller than RichMakeGame. A name like Pineapple Smash Crew, the distinctively retro visuals, and the promise of rockin’ chiptunes were quite enough to get us interested. Now that we’ve had a chance to play for a while, let’s see if our instincts paid off.
This game, by design, has extremely retro visuals. Models are simple and boxy, sprites and UI are pixelated, etc. As usual, retro does not mean bad. It is a style choice, and if put to good use as it is here, it does the job just as well today as it did when it was pushing the limits of current hardware. The player characters are four roughly identical marines, moving in tight formation and launching colorful bullets and creative grenades. The targets of the bullets, aside from the standard crates and power up containers, are a handful of bugs, worms, robots, and robot buts, with the occasional zombie and turret thrown in for good measure. Extra variety comes in assorted accessories and palette swaps that indicate strengths, weaknesses, and behaviors. Levels are techno-hallways of various colors and levels of repair.
The UI is slick and minimal, giving you exactly what info you need, usually in more than one place. Health bars float above heads, along with icons indicating active grenades, with larger and more detailed indicators underneath the action. Color coded arrows point out the locations of exits and level goals, etc. It is everything you need and nothing you don’t. One little touch I really liked was the fact that enemies you have detected but not seen are displayed on the playing field as little blips, requiring you to actually spot them once to know precisely what they are.
The gameplay is in some ways just as retro as the visuals, but in others fresh and new. At the core, this is the same game you’ve played a dozen times before. WASD moves you around, and guns fire at the mouse pointer. Blow up everything that moves and most things that don’t, and work your way from room to room. We’ve been playing this game since Smash TV and Robotron. However, the differences quickly become clear. In addition to their gun (which is always the same, no weapon variety there) each member of your crew can carry one grenade, and the grenades are exceptionally varied. They handle everything your standard gun doesn’t; healing, area attack, shield, shoot through walls, you name it. Some act as short-term turrets that you can use to keep yourself from getting flanked. Others can be redirected and sent rocketing. Since you can only carry four (though the grenades that you haven’t picked up yet remain on the ground, so in most cases you can back track to reload) you really have to make some decisions about how you want to progress. Do you want to hang onto a shield and a heal to be able to patch yourself up if things get sticky? Do you want to stock up on lasers and try to clear the level through the walls? Each grenade has its own unique applications, but many are also highly flexible.
Adding to the complication is the fact that, though your team moves as a unit, each member has his own health bar, and can die individually, costing you a grenade slot and firepower. They will be replaced, sure, but… then you’ll lose one of your guys! You can only name the first four, and I got pretty attached to Hork, Fwomp, Sluggo, and Doug. Aside from sentimental value, the crew levels up to get tougher and more bad ass looking as you collect blue cubes. It would be a shame to work so hard to level up your original crew and then have to get a new recruit, wouldn’t it? So keep your men alive! The team as a whole levels up as well, earning you a larger variety of grenades as you go, and you get to hand pick which one will be added at each level.
The game takes place on a series of discrete ships, and they are classified by danger level, generator level, damage level, etc. Believe it or not, all of those values have an impact on gameplay. Danger level is obvious, but damage level determines the condition of the floor, and thus your mobility. Generator level determines lighting and how functional certain hazards like laser fences are. Realizing this gives you a good idea what any given level will throw at you.
The sound effects of the game are a retro-match for the visuals, but the real claim to fame of the game audio is the soundtrack, which is an assortment of high quality chiptunes provided by Syphus. The music is a perfect fit for the action, particularly on the later levels that are fast paced, bullet-slinging sprints through monster packed rooms.
On the surface, the story of the game is minimal. You are a group of marines who trop into ships to rampage through them, collecting cash and finding data, eventually hoping to find your way to the mothership, a veritable bonanza of a vessel that will allow every member of your crew to retire wealthy. However, each level has at least one data terminal. If you access it, you’ll get a paragraph or so of text to build the world just a bit deeper, Marathon style. It works.
Even if you ignore the incredibly small development team (I believe it was one guy), Pineapple Smash Crew is a fun game with plenty of replay value. Aside from AI that is a little naive, I could find no issues worthy of complaint. Good work, all around. Head on over to Steam and check it out.
8 / 10: A quick in, quick out shooter with some interesting gameplay, clever presentation, and decent music, making for a solid, enjoyable game.