Bizarre concepts in gaming can be very hit and miss. You have incredible highs like Goat Simulator and Katamari Damacy, along with the lowest of lows with releases like Seaman. Fashion Police Squad is a title that hopes to fit into the former category. While it certainly achieves that, whether or not it will make any lasting impact remains to be seen.
Directly inspired by the likes of Duke Nukem 3D, Fashion Police Squad is an FPS Arena Shooter with an emphasis on parody. It was developed by newcomers Mopeful Games, and published by No More Robots. Having reviewed a No More Robots title recently, I was a little apprehensive going into this. Fortunately for me, my worries quickly subsided once I began playing.
Welcome to the world of fashion!
Taking on the role of Sargent Desmond, you and your partner Haley are tasked with managing crimes against fashion. During the course of a routine patrol, a disturbance surrounding particularly drab outfits and colour schemes is called into HQ.
Whilst searching for clues, our trendy protagonist accidently encounters someone called Deep Coat. A relatively sketchy character with even more shady dealings. He tips off Des and Haley that Hugo Bauss would be a good place to start their investigation. Reluctantly, they accept his advice. Unbeknownst to them at the time, this inadvertently kicks off a wild-goose chase with the world of fashion now hanging in the balance.
Parodies are hip again.
With names like Hugo Bauss, you can probably tell that Fashion Police Squad doesn’t take itself too seriously. Narratively, it’s one gigantic parody, ripping on tropes found in boomer shooters and internet memes alike. The surrounding world is also full to the brim with pop culture references. Iconic brands like Nike become Mike, Gucci becomes Cuggi, and Subway becomes Club Slay.
If you aren’t into this sort of comedy, then you’ll probably perceive it somewhat negatively. However, they do make a fair attempt at targeting different niches. As such, you might find one or two things to make you chuckle.
Granted, by the end of my playthrough, I was feeling a little exhausted with the premise. So when I completed the game around 5-6 hours in, I ultimately felt satisfied. Some people may want a bit more bang for their buck, and that’s understandable. There are additional challenges to complete, and it will take you a bit longer if you’re going for a 100% completionist run. But as for me, I felt that this length was just right.
Fit your enemies up with a fresh new look.
When it comes to the gameplay loop of Fashion Police Squad, it plays like any other boomer shooter on the market. However, unlike other retro shooters, its weapons and enemies are interlinked with one another in a rather innovative way.
As I mentioned earlier, our snazzy hero Desmond is tasked with combating criminal fashion choices. The crimes themselves come in all sorts of forms. From donning socks with sandals, wearing a poorly fitted suit, or having awful colour sense, there is seemingly no limit to these offences.
Tackling each one of these violations requires specific methods to overcome them. This is where our wide assortment of weapons come into play. For example, the 2DYE4 Carbine Elite shotgun allows you to add some colour to a dull or grey outfit. Whereas the tailormade SMG has the ability to smarten up any oversized uniforms. With each weapon having its own purpose, you’ll be forced into using your entire arsenal. Luckily though, each tool feels awesome to use, so there really isn’t much to dwell on.
13 runways to catwalk and swing on.
Most of the levels in the game are linear, with a large majority involving backtracking. A typical level consists of entering a room, taking out the enemies within, moving onto the next room of foes, and repeating the process. Similar to other 90s based shooters, certain areas are locked behind coloured doors. In the case of Fashion Police Squad, it uses coloured ceremonial tape as barriers, and scissors as keys.
Besides walking, you also have The Belt of Justice, which allows you to swing around akin to Spider-Man. This comes in handy when trying to navigate vertically, or when you’re looking to quickly dodge out the way of an incoming attack. It also doubles down as a tool you can use to temporarily stun enemies, or brake open boxes to gain items à la Castlevania.
Outside of regular levels, you also have the boss encounters. There is a grand total of 3 of these in the game, with each of them having their own unique mechanics to learn. The second boss is my personal favourite, featuring a ton of video game references in both its gameplay and its thematic.
It’s clear that the developers cared about Fashion Police Squad’s integrity. Its various concepts flowed seamlessly between one another due to its interconnected game design. And in fact, it’s so well designed, that even if you’re not interested by the premise, the responsive, fast paced, and entertaining nature of the gameplay is more than enough to make anyone a fan.
Art style worthy of striking a pose.
Taking after its namesake, Fashion Police Squad absolutely nails its visual presentation. The near immaculate art design composites bright colours in its environmental assets, and contrast them against low-saturated, pastel backdrops. The character sprites are also exceptionally well-drawn, and drip, no pun intended, with an abundance of charm and personality.
Fashion Police Squad also meshes retro pixel aesthetics with a low poly technique. While this isn’t exactly a revolutionary idea, its implementation lends itself to feeling new. It’s difficult to pinpoint a direct graphical comparison to highlight this, but think 3D Terraria meets a modern 1993 Doom.
It honestly would have been easy for Mopeful Games to stumble here and damage the projects identity. However, to their credit, they successfully managed to pull off a fresh and distinctive look. Truthfully, I think you’d be hard pressed finding another title that matches this art style. Even more so when considering how imbued it is into the core ideology of the game.
An OST that is so in vogue.
On the audio front, you’ll find a soundtrack that also leans into the parody. If this was present throughout the entire track listing, it’d be a detriment to the games experience. Thankfully, it isn’t quite as forceful as the story in its approach, instead allowing the music to speak for itself. This is a decision that proves worthwhile in the end, as the entire OST is full of bangers.
All of the tracks are rooted in the chiptune genre, using synthetic tones in places of acoustic instruments. This immensely helps to capture the old school FPS ambience. And, on top of this, it sounds exceedingly reminiscent to something you’d hear on the SEGA Saturn. Additionally, the melodies are both catchy and rhythmic, constantly pushing you to want to continue exploring.
As far as the sound effects go, they are just as polished as the OST. The different weapons, abilities and enemies effectively emulate the DOS era SFXs, except with a contemporary twist on it. The narration that comes with defeating an enemy does get a bit fatiguing. But at least it’s an easy identifiable way to know you’ve taken them out.
All in all, Fashion Police Squad is a fairly humorous parody of internet and video game culture, wrapped up in an entertaining boomer shooter package. It confidently showcases smart game design knowledge with its sharp controls and engaging gameplay, but falters slightly in its lacklustre level layouts. Visually, the game is absolutely gorgeous, and the OST is chock full of upbeat and dance worthy tracks. In spite of its short runtime, the story is an amusing affair, though your enjoyment of it may vary depending on your comedic tastes. If you’re a fan of either 90s retro FPS titles, or games that don’t take themselves too seriously, then this would be one worth picking up on sale.