Pineapple Smash Crew – Review
The large cold metallic door thuds open and the Pineapple Smash Crew lead by Chris “Toffer” Hartnup, step out into the corridor. The back-up power aboard the abandoned ship ‘Solid Shark XIV’ was causing the lighting to flicker on and off. Toffer and his crew tentatively moved forward as an almighty crash bought down the wall in front of them, revealing a room full of robots, protecting a larger robot, who looked none best pleased to see them. Enemy fire began to rain down upon them from all angles. With no option to retreat, they burst forward unloading everything they had to give, certain that they would all make it to the other side…
Pineapple Smash Crew is an indie game developed by the one man company RichMakeGame (not to be confused with MarkMakeSteak, EdMakeJoke or ChrisMakeReview). The premise for PSC is very simple. You control a group of four mercenaries whose sole purpose is to blow stuff up, collect as much money as they can, with aspirations, I assume, to retire or maybe build a Millennium Falcon themed bar… who knows? Between them and a long line of drunken ‘Who shot first?’ arguments is an absolute horde of enemies whose only interest is to kill you as quickly and painfully as possible.
The initial premise sounds simple and probably not uncommon in this line of entertainment, but what separates this game from others though, is the little features which make it refreshingly easy, but devilishly tricky at the same time. You’ll whoop and cheer as your crew becomes stronger and better to the point where you become over confident and then you’ll be punished. Before you can scream a glass shattering “Noooo” one of your guys is dead and you’re imaging a funeral ceremony involving a four hundred and fifty gun salute, surrounded by pineapples and strange, glowing blue cubes.
I’m getting ahead of myself somewhat, so I’ll backtrack. The game begins with you having to choose your team of mercenaries; by choose I do in fact mean ‘name’ – there’s no lengthy character creation to bother us here, this game is about blowing shit up and it wants to get you there post-haste! You will have to name your band of deadly space nutters though. I propose you do what I did and look around the room for inspiration. So, with Toffer, Jim Beam, Sgt Panic and Toothless all named and equipped we set out on our first mission.
One of the core features of Pineapple Smash Crew is that missions are randomly generated – no two levels are exactly the same. I can confirm that I never felt like I was going over the same ground or trudging through the same murky corridors that you get in most big budget titles. Each ship felt different. The layout was different. Enemy placement was different. Even the objectives were in different spots and each mission requires something in particular of you. You’ll notice that you’ll have to complete one of three objectives, and your options are a simple case of wiping out the alien infestation on the ship in question, collecting some ‘artefacts’ or moving toxic barrels into safe zones. All relatively simple in premise, but tough in execution.
When choosing your mission, it’s important to check just what you’re signing up for. It’s not as difficult as reading the fine print on a mortgage agreement, but it is certainly worth checking. It’s first worth checking the ship’s size; these range between small, medium and large. Some are classed as medium-small, medium-large etc, and this basically just lets you know how large the spaceship is, how many rooms you’ve got to smash your way through and how long it’s going to take you. The second thing you want to look out for is ship damage. This gives an indication as to just how bashed up the floating hulk of metal actually is. The more damage, the more busted up the interior is going to look. This affects the player, as holes have formed in the floor and, while you can’t fall down them, you certainly can’t walk over them. This does require you to keep an eye on your surroundings during a busy fire-fight. The final thing to check is the power levels; this can range from full power to no power. Believe me when I say this game is a real bitch when trying to play it in the dark. I’ll say no more than that. Oh, and the power also affects whether or not the laser barriers are working on some doors – they can almost always be circumvented somehow, but it’s worth mentioning.
Once your mission has been selected on one of the hilariously named spaceships it’s time to get stuck in. From a purely gameplay perspective, Pineapple Smash Crew will feel like a throwback to the games of old; it will be immediately familiar to anyone who’s played Alien Breed or the recently released All Zombies Must Die. The camera position isn’t a bird’s-eye view but it’s certainly not third person either. It’s somewhere in between, making it perfect for this game, giving a wide view of what’s happening, which is a good thing because the action is thick, fast and comes from all directions. Make no mistake, this is a game where you’ll instinctively charge around like a three year old overdosed on Calpol. It just feels like the right thing to do.
Charging around like the aforementioned toddler is simple enough with keyboard and mouse. You control all four mercenaries at once, which may sound ludicrous but is pleasantly simple once you’ve broken the thirty second barrier, and you also fire all their guns simultaneously. The primary weapon appears to be a group sub-machine gun. It’s a weapon that you’ll use constantly until it runs out of juice, by which time it needs a few seconds to recharge, so if it runs out while you’re being besieged like an adult hotline on a lonely Saturday night what do you do? You turn to the title of the game: pineapples. Not the fruity thing that does not belong on pizza (fucking heretics); in this instance pineapple takes on its slang meaning as a hand grenade. If you didn’t know it could be used in this manner, excuse me while I call your secondary school history teacher and ask them just what the fuck they were actually teaching you.
Unlike most games, which view grenades and explosives generally as a secondary option, they are actually the only way you’re going to survive in this space apocalypse. Each mercenary can only pick up one secondary item at a time and you can flick through available ones using the mouse wheel. Pineapple Smash Crew doesn’t waste any time introducing you to each weapon or force you to sit through a fifteen minute tutorial on the finer workings of a rocket, however, it’s more a case of: “Here are some explosives. Now piss off and blow stuff up”. I didn’t have a problem with this and neither, I suspect, will you.
There is a long list of items that your band of brothers can collect: you have a selection of offensive weapons, which include grenades (that bounce all over the shop), rockets (which can be directed, once deployed, using the mouse), and lasers (which can be shot through walls), to name but a few. There are also defensive or decoy weapons. These can effect your team by means of a shield or health that can be deployed to protect your crew. There are also items such as holograms (which draw enemy fire) and a vortex (which pulls everything into its centre). These items and weapons can be combined to make some pretty awesome combos. So, for example, deploy a vortex, suck in all the bad guys and then chuck a grenade, which will also get sucked in. Smug mode activated.
While you’re traversing the various ships you’ll come across power-ups. These are automatically activated and come in four distinctive flavours. Of course, you have the industry famous invincibility which simply does as it has done for the last twenty odd years and makes you immune to damage. Then there is the damage multiplier, which crucially stops your primary weapon from running low on juice; bullet-time also makes an appearance, which can be incredibly handy during a boss fight, and finally there is something that causes all the enemies to fear you. They literally turn and run the other way. I can only assume your crew is saying some really nasty things to them. Very handy.
As previously mentioned, you’ll spend the first few hours running around levels like a headless chicken, blowing stuff up and completing objectives. As you do so, you will likely notice plenty of boxes to destroy; these contain various amounts of blue cubes and you’ll want to be hoovering these up as they count towards unlocking new grenade types. You’ll need more of them each time you do it, but it’s well worth the effort as you can unlock some of the game’s best weapons by doing so. Another addition is an area on the map with a white mark, signalling the location of a computer which can be accessed to provide you with details of a backstory titled ‘The Wasabi War’. Although these provide an interesting distraction, they are not crucial and can be easily ignored.
One rather nice touch involves the men you’re commanding. While you’re leading them from room to room they’ll happily chat amongst themselves, with dialogue that is actually well written and quite funny. Some of my favourite lines included one shouting “Eat lead” and another adding “Eat all the poisonous metals”. Another was one exclaiming that he’s “Got a real craving for pineapple”, to which another replies: “I’m getting sick of hearing about pineapples”. My favourite though has to be upon entering a new room: “This place is a mess”. To which someone pipes up: “Looks like your crew quarters”. It’s all very tongue in cheek and really made me start caring about the little bastards (more on that later).
At the end of each level you’ll get a look at the total number of credits gathered and XP gained. The XP goes to levelling up your men, who get a different colour outfit each time they level up, however, this is done automatically and the player has no way to direct anything to do with XP at all. I feel this was something of a missed step for Pineapple Smash Crew. I understand the desire to keep things simplistic and focused on the action, but I also understand that adding what may seem like an arbitrary upgrade system may have seen it written off as just another clone. However this game screams, begs and whines for some sort of an upgrade system. It doesn’t need to worry about being lumped in with the other games of this nature because it’s standing head and shoulders above them with its gameplay.
A new upgrade system could have been as simple as choosing what your men get to wear, or maybe some sort of buffer for completing certain activities. This game is so enjoyable, it just needs another layer to give the player an incentive to go and search each spaceship, rather than just heading straight for the objectives, which is what I honestly found myself doing on some of the larger levels. My guys were all maxed out after about two hours of play and so clearing every room seemed rather redundant. I would have happily done it (and for a while I did, because it is just that much fun to play) but, after a period, you begin to question why you’re doing it. All the credits you’re collecting could have been used to buy something… anything! How is your crew getting from ship to ship? Must be a ship of their own, right, so how about some furry dice for the cockpit? It’s not crucial, but again it is something that could have been done.
From a graphical and audio perspective Pineapple Smash Crew is in a league of its own. What you see is what you get with the graphics; there are no beautifully rendered cut scenes or deep moving scenery, but there are some awesome explosions and imaginative enemies. They all look fantastic and the blend of 8-bit and 3D really does work well. If you like the graphics then that’s great, but the sound is what really steals the show. Created by Syphus, a Chiptune artist, the score for Pineapple Smash Crew is one of the best I’ve heard in a long time. I’m not sure how the music is rotated, or if it’s just totally random, but either way it’s bloody awesome. It goes perfectly with the crazy speed you’ll fly through each level and, in fact, it practically encourages you to do so. I highly doubt any other type or style of music would suited the game as well as this does – it’s simply fantastic and I can’t recommend it enough.
With that said, however, as much as the music may make you feel like you’ve got to speed around the areas, as the game progresses you’ll start doing the opposite. I don’t know why but I really started getting attached to my little band of mercenaries. What started of as a mutual trade of fun for loot has become a companionship that means I carefully approach each battle with the tenacity and planning of a hundred year old ninja. The difficulty just rises towards the end. Boss battles increase in frequency and the sheer amount of fire power being thrown at you will force you behind cover.
Lifting my tear soaked face I can tell you that both Toffer and Jim Beam kicked the bucket some half an hour before the game’s completion. You can’t rename the new recruits. It’s Pineapple Smash Crew’s final way of slapping you in the face and saying: “You got them killed, you bastard. Now you’ve got to put up with these noob morons, Jay and Jools”. I was distraught. I heard that Sgt Panic pissed in Jay’s cereal for a week because it was the only thing that would cheer him up after the death of his battle brothers.
All jokes aside, with the mission and the game finally completed what is there for me to come back to? The honest answer is “not much”. If you weren’t taken by the game you won’t be coming back for more upon finishing it. The ending is rather abrupt and a little easy which is a shame, although if I’m honest I’d just jump back to the start and begin again.Pros
- Quite frankly, it is undeniably the most fun I've had in a game for a long time
- Varied and awesome weapons
- Amazing soundtrack
- Characters you will care about
- Lack of character customisation
- Missing replay value will put some people off
- Few varied objectives
I've had to think long and hard about what I personally would have improved in this game. Usually, when playing games, things jump out or frustrate me and I wonder just what the developer was thinking when they decided that it was a good idea to include that feature. Not with Pineapple Smash Crew, though. I can only think of a few things I'd change: more customisation, more damage detail to some rooms, more objectives - all things that really aren't key but would have made it even more enjoyable.
I can totally recommend this game to anyone who enjoys shooting things and having fun and it's likely to be the easiest recommendation I'll ever make. In a post Christmas period where I've been playing Battlefield 3, Zelda and Assassin's Creed, this is the game I've enjoyed the most. If there isn't a sequel I'll be very disappointed
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