Review: Pineapple Smash Crew

Thanks to Pineapple Smash Crew I have screamed at my computer more than any other game.

These weren’t screams of rage, or frustration: they were exhortations. “No, Jools, keep away from the fire!” They were accompanied by pleading—“Okay, Roo, we just got to get you out of this level in one piece”—and depression—“No! Stoo! Why did you have to die!” Because at its heart, Pineapple Smash Crew, like its obvious predecessor Cannon Fodder, is a game about stories. It’s not a game about burly space marines shooting anything that moves (though this does happen), it’s a game about life and death, the struggle for survival.

Pineapple Smash Crew delivers because it does everything it tries to with such aplomb. There are exactly two mechanics in the game: running around shooting things with a PC-centric twin stick control set and grenades. And the grenades are laughably, lovably dangerous. Pineapple Smash Crew plays its best card immediately. It gives you grenades and missiles, which you will fire with reckless abandon. And then your four little guys will be close to death, because you didn’t expect friendly fire.

You might as well call it Friendly Fire: The Game.

With just these two mechanics and an endless supply of randomized ships to explore Pineapple Smash Crew manages to be utterly compelling. As ships get bigger and filled to the brim with nasties you need to play with more precision to make sure all your little guys, who you’ve no doubt given names and back stories to, come out of it alive. They banter with each other obnoxiously, but that’s okay: you don’t want anybody to die.

Except they’re going to die, and you’re going to have to change your story. Death is Pineapple Smash Crew‘s one narrative device, and it’s a doozy. Admittedly, it’s the same one Cannon Fodder had, and Pineapple Smash Crew doesn’t have Fodder‘s moment of clarity staring across a slowly filling graveyard, but it’s still effective.

What Pineapple Smash Crew has over Cannon Fodder is its relative brevity and zaniness. Cannon Fodder was a relatively long game that demanded patience, good reflexes, and, despite its silly, all-too-British names, a certain level of seriousness. Pineapple Smash Crew takes those silly names wholesale and makes them the central point of the game. Enemies will kill you in Pineapple Smash Crew, but more often it’s going to be you. You’re going to awkwardly place a grenade right in Jops face. You’re going to forget about a proximity mine and it’s going to blow up right behind the lovable DrDerek and shower him in pretty fire. It’s going to happen, and you’re going to scream at your computer, not because it’s frustrating but because you should have seen it coming, you should have saved him.

Ironically, most of the game I was screaming at Syphus to pick it up and keep fighting—this is amusing because Syphus (like, I gather, all of the default names) was involved in development. He made the stellar Genesis-esque chiptune mix, and it is absolutely the highlight of the game. The whole game gives off a very nice Sega Genesis vibe which meshes perfectly with the ostentatious PC gameplay. Sure, the songs get a little repetitive, and the environments get a little stale after a while, but they are sharp and smart.

Every complaint I have about Pineapple Smash Crew isn’t about what is here but instead about what isn’t here. As far as negatives go, it’s a good one: the game, as is, is perfectly executed. I did miss things, though. I wanted the different companies, with their different and absurd backgrounds, to run different sorts of ships. I wanted to be able to choose to leave behind some of my guys if I didn’t want to risk them on pointless missions or just to get experience for new blood. I craved customizable weapon and grenade loadouts. Eventually I wanted there to be more than one boss, more than a handful of enemies who are quickly figured out. These things being absent certainly do not knock proverbial points away from the game—they’re my expectations, not what the game wants to deliver—but I couldn’t help missing some of the fifteen years of gaming ideas we’ve accrued since Cannon Fodder and the Sega Genesis.

None of this demerits Pineapple Smash Crew‘s strengths, however. It’s a near great game that doesn’t overstay its welcome and invites you to come back for more. Hopefully the developer (a one man team with few collaborators) sees enough sales that he can consider making DLC for the title, because this is one game that would benefit tremendously from more variety, more options, more stuff to do. As it is, though, Pineapple Smash Crew is an enjoyable romp that’s worth its downloadable price tag.

One Comment

  1. Dylan

    The fact that Jools is in this game makes me want to buy it right now.

    I actually played Cannon Fodder when it came out, may have been my first action game. Man, it was hard.