Doom paved the way for the FPS genre. It effectively served as the blueprint for every first person action game that followed it, and thirty years later, most would agree it has aged like fine wine.
While the Doom franchise has revamped itself to keep up with its competitors in the modern age, the spirit of its 1993 debut has been kept alive and well in the indie scene through the affectionately dubbed “boomer shooter” genre. Blasphemous as it may be, I’ve never normally been drawn to games of this ilk – until I gave Fashion Police Squad a whirl.
The stylish, vibrant shooter follows Sergeant Des, a member of the titular squad, as he’s tasked with rectifying fashion crimes throughout the city. While most boomer shooters offer a variety of different guns and weapons to take down your foes, here your artillery will instead jazz up people’s outfits, be it giving their threads a splash of colour or tightening up an ill-fitting suit. But here’s the twist: each gun only works for one specific “enemy”. For example, you’ll be taking down hordes of businessmen in dull attire with your basic “shotgun” (which comes in the form of a paintgun), and you’ll use a belt in place of a whip to address those who dare walk around with sagging pants. But the belt wouldn’t work in place of the paintgun, and vice versa. Find yourself against three or four different enemy varieties in one room, and this means you have to swap around your firearms in the heat of battle, adding to the tension and quick-thinking that’s synonymous with the boomer shooter genre.
There are also some moments to breathe in the form of platforming segments in between all the combat. Shoutout to the belt once again, which you can use to swing across poles and cover massive distances; any segments involving this was an easy favourite for me. The swinging mechanic is incredibly fluid and satisfying, and I found myself taking a moment to play around with this before moving onto the next fashion-themed showdown.
Despite the game’s jazzy aesthetic, it’s still very clear that, at its core, Fashion Police Squad is a love letter to the original Doom. The lovingly-crafted sprites in 3D environments, the inclusion of both a HP and armour bar, and even a small animated icon of our protagonist next to the health bar in the spirit of Doom Guy are all present here, but the vibrant, dazzling visuals give it a unique look that the genre doesn’t often see. This is enhanced even more by the game’s witty comedic writing, constantly cracking jokes yet never going overboard and distracting you from the action for too long. Not only are the character interactions entertaining, but also the environments themselves – I always found myself giggling at the clothing store names like Tony Dillpicker and Hugo Bauss. It maintains a consistently light-hearted tone like this throughout, something that sets it apart even more from other boomer shooters, which typically replicate Doom’s more intense, threatening atmosphere. Between the dialogue, visual design and the music, which consists of catchy MIDI-esque tunes harkening back to the likes of Duke Nukem, Fashion Police Squad had a very clear vision of what it wanted to be, and I can safely say it pulled it off.
The controls for both combat and platforming are also excellent, feeling very tight and responsive – a must for any Doom-like. That being said, there are some very small issues I encountered in my playthrough. The first being some areas often feeling unnecessarily cramped. Especially since you could be fighting against ten or more enemies in one room, all of whom are throwing projectiles or racing towards you, leaving some locations in the game feeling a bit too claustrophobic. Minimising enemy numbers in smaller areas (or simply making areas more spacious) could’ve solved this issue. Secondly, the belt swinging mechanic, while incredibly smooth and insanely fun to use, has a noticeably strict hitbox that forces you to aim at a very specific part of the pole, or else the belt won’t connect, and you’ll likely get kicked back to the start of the platforming segment. While not enough of a problem to disrupt the gameplay flow too much, a bit of a more lenient hitbox on the poles would’ve made an already very well-executed mechanic even better.
Most importantly, the experience doesn’t overstay its welcome. As fun as boomer shooters can be, some would argue they’re a game style that is best enjoyed in short and sweet bursts. There are 13 missions to play through here, and one full playthrough will probably take you around four hours, the perfect length of time for an afternoon session. But there’s plenty of post-game content to give you another few hours of fun, like secrets to find in each level, challenges, and even higher difficulties for the more hardcore fans of the genre.
Fashion Police Squad delivers a zany, exciting experience with mechanics that are accessible and intuitive, making it not only a fresh experience for veterans, but a great entry point for novices who may have been drawn in by its groovy aesthetic. I’m hoping titles like this could entice other developers to experiment more with the boomer shooter genre, keeping the spirit of classic Doom alive for even more years to come.
- Amazing visual design with snappy, engaging dialogue
- Satisfying, fast-paced boomer shooter gameplay with mechanics that help it stand out from the crowd
- Challenges and higher difficulties offer plenty replay value for the low cost of entry
- Cramped spaces with lots of enemies can feel unnecessarily overwhelming
- Needlessly strict hitboxes with the swinging mechanic can lead to unfair deaths