Style Over Substance

HIGH The visual style is totally on point.

LOW The rigid weapon restrictions become irritating very quickly.

WTF Yes, Cindy Aurum’s awesome. That’s a weird reference though.

Stand up straight citizen, it’s time to step into the immaculately-polished shoes of one of the most fascist police forces in videogame history. Freedom of personal expression is extremely frowned upon in this town, so if anyone ventures outside with even the slightest hint of non-conformist sartorial stylings, the police will be immediately unleashed to ‘fix’ their external appearance via force if necessary… and force is usually necessary in a First-Person Shooter.

Wait, FPS? And it’s called Fashion Police Squad? What a coincidence!

Still, these brainwashed, unkempt goons don’t seem to mind that they essentially have no rights at all when it comes to how they dress and present themselves in public. Also, they’re all bastards who attack anyone with ‘better’ style sense. Hipsters on scooters rudely careen around the place trying to mow everyone down, ‘Karens’ (their term, not mine) constantly complain and kick up a literal stink, and inelegantly-dressed job applicants rush around while hurling their CVs at everyone in sight.

Now, where Fashion Police Squad separates itself from most shooters is that every enemy has to be dealt with in a certain way — not killed, mind. Sure, murdering people for having the wrong color of socks could be darkly hilarious, but also even more morally bankrupt than forcing them to toe the line by force when it comes to fashion.

Someone’s suit looking a little baggy? Sew it up with a machine gun needle called the Tailormade. They’re not looking vibrant enough? Blast them with a paintball shotgun until their fashion sense pops instead of their skull. Baggy pants breaking the dress code? Remove that belt, officer, and… brutally whip them until they’re suddenly looking great?

Look, I didn’t claim that any of these policing methods make sense. I’m just pointing out that using the wrong weapon in combat will be utterly ineffective at curbing a lack of pizzazz. Using a paintball gun on someone with loose pants isn’t only a deeply questionable act, it also doesn’t take care of the problem. As a result, players need to zip around combat arenas making sure that they’re using the right weapon for the job — and it’s a mechanic I’m not entirely convinced of, if I’m being honest.

Sure, Doom Eternal also had enemies with weaknesses to certain approaches. Lobbing a sticky grenade into a Cacodemon’s mouth or sniping the turret off an Arachnotron would greatly weaken these opponents, but the difference was that other weapons were still effective. That’s not the case in Fashion Police Squad, meaning that battlefields with a variety of enemies require constant gun juggling and repositioning to get clear shots at the right target.

In theory it sounds fine, and an interesting twist on simply pointing and shooting. In practice… well, it’s fairly limiting and noticeably less satisfying than getting a minigun out and turning everything into chunks.

Then come the special functions where our character’s belt allows him to swing across gaps, and a water gun that allows him to shoot the floor to move faster and take longer jumps. Again, interesting ideas, but ones that don’t add much to the experience.

The pacing’s not handled well either. Main character Sergeant Des and his partner Haley are always getting in touch with one another to yak about fashion, share their concerns about the rise in fashion crimes and unload a bunch of mediocre puns. Constantly. The radio clicks to life an absurd amount of times per mission, and everything screeches to a halt while they hash out their thoughts. A recent post release update introduced a desperately needed ‘skip dialogue’ feature which is an absolute blessing, but there’s still no way to excise these conversations completely.

On the other hand, one area where FPS absolutely shines is in its overall look. The devs have gone for a faux-retro style which at reminds me of a particularly vibrant PlayStation One game without the technical limitations of the time. For those old enough to remember, imagine something like Duke Nukem mixed with The beautifully cartoonish Misadventures of Tron Bonne, and it looks awesome.

I’m conflicted about Fashion Police Squad. It’s a great-looking title with mechanics that may not be to my personal taste but are at least fairly unique. However, I found playing became a bit of a slog as time passed, and that didn’t change as the difficulty ramps up in later levels — instead of getting more tense, it simply becomes more tedious due to cramped level design and continually swapping to the correct weapons in chaotic situations.

Fans of ’90s-style retro-shooters might find Fashion Police Squad‘s offbeat and quirky approach to the genre to their liking, but there’s already a lot of stiff competition in the genre — it’s interesting, but flawed approach simply doesn’t measure up to the others already strutting on the catwalk.

Rating: 5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Mopeful Games and published by No More Robots. It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 7 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is not rated. Nothing in it should cause too much offence though, enemies aren’t massacred en masse but instead made stylish through shooting them with fashion accessories.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. All dialogue and story events are displayed in text format. The subtitles cannot be altered and/or resized. There are audio samples that indicate where enemies are coming from and these do not come with visual cues. Unfortunately, this means it is not fully accessible — it should still be fairly playable, but since the damage indicator doesn’t show where attacks are coming from, it can take longer to figure it out without sound.

Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls.

Darren Forman
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