Pineapple Smash Crew
Some say what’s on a man’s mind in the face of certain death tells everything there is to know about his character. These are the men who think only of the pineapples.
A band of brothers, they stand as one in combat, travelling between infested starships and surgically removing any foreign threats. A highly specialized, battle-tested squadron equipped with the latest technologies in broad mechanical suits, they enter the star ships armed only with machine guns. The time for diplomacy ended the second they set foot on the ship. They’re the Pineapple Smash Crew.
This is what indie games are all about. The developer’s name, Rich Make Game, says everything you need to know about the one-man crew’s philosophy around development. Smaller studios have the unique opportunity to make the games they’d like to play. So, Pineapple Smash Crew is a light and airy throwback to those good retro games concerned with staying in the moment and contextualizing the imperative things.
There’s a loose kind of structure tied to recovering memory fragments from the mother ship and eventually taking out the alien threat. The ships are generated randomly, with a map showing the enemy density in each segment. A few mission types govern the objectives for every outing, so you’ll either be searching crates for artifacts, killing rooms of enemies, or relocating plates onto grids. And while aesthetics and objectives are conditional, each ship essentially ends the same way, with a saucer-like boss accompanying a horde of lesser enemies.
Then there’s the fate of your men, whom are essentially cannon fodder. They can be leveled up if kept alive and replaced with whatever credits they happened to earn if they’ve died. With each one down, it renders the group as a whole closer to being expendable. Once all four have fallen, a new group with fresh faces and base stats swing in to replace them. It seems a bit off tonally but pays homage to the right classic concepts.
Sometimes it wears thin. Towards the game’s end my troop were cornered in by a saucer and I lost several platoons of units before it could be brought down. There are other problems with the enemy’s path-finding and while the units also get stuck, they’ll warp around to the one you’re controlling directly. It’s the problem with randomly generated levels, putting too fine a focus on the loose action and short range of attack patterns.
Pineapple Smash Crew plays fast, informed by an era of arcade concepts transitioning into new themes and genres. There’s a dusting of tactical thought to it but much of the action’s in shooting aliens and finding the choice projectile that causes specific enemies to blow up nicely all the same.
Explosions come off as especially notable, occasionally filling the screen with a blast radius of stylized retro goodness. It scratches that itch for an Amiga aesthetic while the chip-tune soundtrack puts a fine point on its intentions.
Then it all fizzles out after the last ship. No option to return to the previous ships or much of anything. Only New Game in place of Continue on the menu. It’s all gone. It comes off as a low note, forced in its finality. It’s an inevitable point of no return inserted abruptly for the purpose of having an end.
Pineapple Smash Crew is a trying return to a simpler time when neat explosions and simply designed shootouts were all it took to warrant full release. While Rich Make Game doesn’t move the formula into much new territory, they (read: he) reminds us that the simple and good retro concepts haven’t tired with age. While the outward-facing studios continue their search for meaning, the indie space is thriving in making videogames for videogame’s sake.