Isometric twin-stick shooters are one of the most common and pervasive sub-genres around at the moment. After Geometry Wars refined Robotron's classic control scheme and made a mint, absolutely everyone fancies a piece of the simple, tasty and usually completely unfulfilling pie.
However, just because these shooters are everywhere doesn't mean that they have to lack imagination, vision or artistic flair. Two fantastic examples of were readily available to play at Eurogamer Expo's Indie Arcade - and they stood tall amongst the biggest AAA projects that took over Earls Court last weekend despite both being developed by a one-man team. If anyone tells you that Indie games are just pretentious, arty nonsense... just point them in the direction of the massive explosions, sweet mechanics and unstoppable firepower!
Pineapple Smash Crew: Cannon Fodder Meets Space Hulk!
When massive cargo ships fall prey to alien infestation, there's only one team of armoured meatheads worth calling. The Pineapple Smash Crew. These leathernecks are armed for extreme combat, decked out with the most advanced grenade technology known to man and are very, very adorable. You can blame the isometric stylish voxel visuals for that.
The four mercenaries act as a single unit since players are able to control them all simultaneously with the arrow keys. As they gaggle around in as tight a group as possible, you can direct their combined firepower with the mouse (or right thumbstick if you're using a gamepad) and brutalise the hordes of slimy, disgusting and occasionally mechanised foes that infest the darkened hallways. The aim of each mission - or derelict spaceship - is to move through the grid-like superstructure in order to find and neutralise key target rooms, though it's much more fun and profitable to loot the vessel in its entirety for blue resource cubes that grant persistent experience.
Once you've grabbed a few cubes and gotten a few levels, you can start to have fun with the continually-unlocking selection of outrageous grenades. Standard explosives can be deployed and detonated with the right mouse button, but you'll soon encounter fly-by-wire rockets (brilliant for corner lurkers), temporary healing pads, holographic decoys and teleporters; all of which handle completely differently and offer entirely unique combat opportunities. Each team member can hold a single grenade (accessible using the scroll wheel), and their abundant supply encourages players to smoke 'em if they've got 'em.
The experience is brought to life through colourful minimalist artwork and a fantastic chiptune soundtrack - as well as frequent hilarious quotes that lampoon everything from Aliens to Fear and Loathing. Eat poisonous metal! Pineapple Smash Crew is a fantastic achievement, made especially humbling since the entire project stems from the work of a single developer. UK designer Rich Edwards has done an incredible job, and we can't wait to get involved with the end result!
Waves: When In Doubt, Add A Gun!
Waves is remarkable for so many reasons. It's a visual masterpiece that makes most downloadable games look amateurish. It's mechanically exceptional and aggressively, wonderfully addictive. It's the work of a single underpaid legend, Rob Hale, who's designed absolutely everything from scratch. But the most remarkable thing about Waves is that it's essentially a complete accident.
You see, Hale originally intended this hectic and stressful shooter to be a marble-rolling physics platformer, but realised somewhere down the line that he simply wasn't having any fun. The solution? Simple. "I decided to add a gun." I think I speak for the entire gaming community when I say that we're so very glad he did.
The marble rolling stayed, with players controlling a sphere that spits out a torrent of firepower and leaves fluid ripples in its wake. A ceaseless assault of neon horror bears down on your spherical avatar, requiring you to make use of the responsive controls and a smooth slow motion mechanic triggered effortlessly with the right mouse button. Chaining kills rewards you with points and multipliers, as does playing chicken with incoming enemies and spamming the oh-so-gratuitous slow-mo. It's a satisfyingly basic setup to be sure, but five game modes including wave-based survival challenges, time attacks and a hot potato bomb challenge ensure a serious amount of value. And palpitation-inducing levels of stress - Waves pulls no punches and is all the better for it.
Waves looks absolutely incredible, but this is apparently all down to UDK's impressive selection of shaders. There's been no modelling whatsoever, just the raw power of engine and imagination working together - towards the goal of letting us blow up loads of stuff in slow motion for points and prizes. Hale suggests that it will be available towards the end of the holiday season on Steam, and we can't wait to get involved.