Top-Down shooters are a genre that gets a bad rap. People tend to think it is overplayed, and that there aren’t good innovative examples coming out anymore. The Walking Vegetables is here to prove this belief wrong.
The Walking Vegetables is a retro-style shoot’em’up, and you may groan at the thought of another retro indie game slogging up your steam library, but I am not talking gaming retro, I am talking a retro aesthetic best exemplified in either vaporwave art, or Hotline Miami: a game of the same genre. The game does use a fairly basic pixel art but enhances the art with visual effects such as CRT style scan lines and the like to create a visually appealing 70’s aesthetic.
Another gripe people often have with top-down shooters is their linearity. These games can typically consist of isolated levels that have little to nothing to do with each other. The Walking Vegetables does quell this issue by having each level as a vast open area to explore with plenty of extra rooms to go into for extra loot, or you can speed your way through and do the minimum amount of work possible. The open concept each level contains helps make the world feel bigger, and the stages more involved. Even though you are still in the stage, walking in between areas or houses feels like traversing a hub world with enemies coming at you from all sides, lending to the connected nature of the levels. This does lead to the biggest problem with the level design, and that is when you are finished with a level. The level ends with a car picking you up and then dropping you off in a new area to begin the cycle of destruction all over again. I wish the levels could be a little bit more intertwined, instead of feeling separate/isolated.
But a game is only as good as its gameplay, and rest assured this gameplay is very solid. Many top-down shooters are very fast paced, and twin stick ones like this or Hotline Miami are the fastest of them all, Hotline Miami has you sprinting through levels and just one mistake can cost you the run. The Walking Vegetables takes a step back from that in favor of a slower pace. You are given more than 1 point of health and don’t move at the breakneck pace of everyone’s favorite animal-masked vigilantes. This does not diminish the intensity of the game, and in fact, can do a better job of intensity at times. The enemies come fast and thick; with many different enemy types ready to destroy you at every turn.
How you dispatch these enemies is up to you. You have a massive variety of weapons to choose from that are either purchased at the shops with gold that you pilfered from your vitamin-rich enemies or gained via chests you open after clearing an area of baddies. The weapons are by no means revolutionary, but they all feel good to use and each weapon feels unique. I particularly enjoyed destroying groups of enemies with the rocket launcher in a glorious fire.
The delicious targets you will be shooting at are full of variety. Different fruits or vegetables have different traits and even subclasses between them. firing at them feels great, and they all have very well designed animations for each action. I never felt like I had seen the same enemy too many times, or that the game had run out of variety. The game also has some more substantial enemies, and I am of course talking about bosses.
The bosses are great, they never felt too difficult to defeat with a few well-placed shots, but they were also no pushovers. The bosses always had inventive designs and attack patterns that put a perfect end to the stages.
Overall, The Walking Vegetables is a great game and really gives new life to the top-down shooter genre. I encourage anyone who has been feeling burnt out on this type of game to gives The Walking Vegetables a try, and it being fairly low risk being on steam for only $9.99 makes it an easy game to recommend to everyone.