Strafe the Explosion Screaming
Time to Finish: 2 hrs.
Total Marine Deaths: 23
What I'd Pay: $5
Steam Price (2/5/12): $10
Pineapple Smash Crew is a jaunty retro game about a squad of mercenary marines dying from overwhelming numbers as they clean out derelict spaceships. And explosions. So many explosions. If the Warhammer 40k Imperium wanted to encourage teenagers to sign up for the Guard with a computer game, they'd probably release something like this. (Although I doubt they would make it this upbeat & cheery; kudos to viiral for the gameplay footage, you just saved me a paragraph trying to explain the graphics & sound style.)
The premise is cut & dried: you're a group of mercenaries clearing out ships for credits. It pays the bills, but you're also gathering navigational coordinates for the Motherlode, an immense ship with so many precious artifacts on it you can retire for life. If you live to see it, that is. Your enemies are tough & numerous, and they have no qualms about swarming you with laser fire. Your equalizer? Grenades.
Not just regular grenades, either. Rocket grenades, telefraggers, turret grenades, vortex bombs, proximity grenades... a plethora of ways to eviscerate your opponents. Right-click once to toss them, right-click again to detonate them. There's even shield grenades and health grenades for a little support. (Health grenades? How does that work? Why do we care?) You can't enjoy them all, however; you have to pick from one of 2 different types of grenades to add to your arsenal every time your squad levels up. That's all leveling up does: it gives you more types of grenades.
Well, leveling up your squad, at least. Your individual marines also level up whenever they complete a ship, becoming tougher to kill, but that really doesn't matter much because they're gonna die anyway. Most of the rooms are easy, but they wear down your marines enough that that one room, the one where 4 rapid-fire turrets say "Hello!" when you open the door, kills a marine in the crossfire. Suddenly you're down a quarter of your firepower (and grenades). You have 2 choices here: you can either buckle down and finish off the ship with a reduced squad, saving the rest of your experienced, armored marines for the next death trap, or you can recklessly get them killed until the last one falls and you warp in a new squad of green recruits to finish the job. Sometimes both choices look eerily similar in action.
That's when Pineapple Smash Crew is at its best: when you're charging screaming past a group of 2 dozen enemies, dodging gunfire as you unload every grenade in your arsenal in their direction, desperately trying to make it to the next batch of grenades to restock, as grenades & flaming barrels & fire worms explode in a giant chain reaction of death & gore that leaves you standing amidst the rubble, only to realize the other batch of enemies in the room is now approaching and you need to run for the exit to conserve your grenades for the next room. There is death, mayhem, and cautious tiptoeing encountering a tactical error and giving way to room-clearing explosions.
"But wait, don't the explosions kill you too?"
Yes, they can, but the gunfire kills you faster. You will learn to appreciate the cleansing fires.
Other than the emphasis on the (glorious!) explosions, it handles like a futuristic Smash TV. You aim with the mouse cursor & move with the keyboard. Your marines always stay in formation and have separate HP bars; it's possible to shield a weak marine by changing the formation leader. Each marine can carry 1 grenade at a time. (This make losing marines problematic.) In addition to grenades, you can also fire guns, although in the later stages the enemies are so tough you can't clear a room with even a full squad firing guns. (The fewer marines, the fewer guns; this makes losing marines even more problematic.)
The ships you salvage are randomly generated, complete with overhead maps so you can chart a safe (*snicker*) path when you're not killing something, again, like Smash TV. It's kind of interesting, but aside from the Mission Objectives & the optional Navigation Terminal, the only details on the map are enemy density; there's no ammo caches or artifact stores to tempt you into risking your necks.
That's a shame, because there's not enough extras or variety to keep you coming back to the great core gameplay. By the time I finished in 2 hours, I was sated. It gave me a victory screen and a marine death count, but no stats about credits earned, ships explored, enemies slain, etc. It doesn't even have a Hall of Fame to compare runs! And if you want a tougher challenge, too bad: you can't change the Difficulty Level either.
For all its great gameplay, it is missing basic features that would encourage replaying it. That's why, although I gave it 4 out of 5 stars, I also believe it is overpriced. It was a great 2 hours of gaming, but a $10 game should provide more than just 2 hours of gameplay. Do I regret paying that much for it? A bit. Do I regret playing it? Not at all. If you have money to burn and a bad memory, buy it now. If you see it on sale for $5 later, definitely pick it up.