Throw a stone in any direction the games industry and you’ll hit a twin-stick shooter. They come in all shapes and sizes from 3D horror themes titles to 2D pixel art dungeon gunners. It takes something unique to stand out in such a crowded genre as this. Really successful twin-stick shooters need a good hook, a unique art style or innovative mechanics. The Walking Vegetables, originally released on PC back in 2017 but now on consoles thanks to the ‘Radical Edition’, is missing all of these things – but that doesn’t stop it from being a relatively fun romp against an unfamiliar foe. So long as you haven’t been playing twin-stick shooters recently…
It’s the 1980’s in The Walking Vegetables. You play as a moustachioed bald guy complete with unbuttoned shirt, snazzy sunglasses and shit eating grin. Of course you drive a DeLorean. Because of course you do. He’s basically every version of how American dad’s see themselves in their 80’s prime, all rolled together. Being the badass MF that he is, this bald dude has been called up to serve in “the Radical Police” because – wait for it – little grey aliens have invaded Earth and have turned all fruit and vegetables into brutal monsters. It’s your job to put an end to the pesky produce and send the alien scum packing.
The Walking Vegetables has roguelike elements seamlessly blended with the twin-stick fun. Each run in this game see’s you start at Chapter 1 (called ‘Peas on Earth’ – see what they did there?) armed with nothing but a weak pistol that has infinite ammo and a 4 heart health bar. Each chapter is built out of a procedurally generated city, separated into a number of different environments to explore that initially act as a combat arena. As you enter each new area, exits become locked until you’ve cleared out all the veggies. Once you do so, you can progress to another until you’ve defeated them all and you unlock a Boss Battle which serves as the test before the next chapter. There’s also optional buildings to enter (almost always locked and require a key that can be found in destructible environmental objects) to clear of ferocious fruits which can grant ammo or health crates and better weaponry once they’re empty.
The botanical bad guys in The Walking Vegetables are actually pretty inspired. Each type of fruit and veg has their own type of attack and amount of health. Potatoes are tough to kill but move slowly, walking like John Cena after a hefty leg day in the gym. Lemons, bigger than most of their peers (or should that be pears?), stop in their tracks then squeeze out a big puddle of juice which knock off a heart from your health should you walk into it. Carrots spin themselves into a frenzy and zip across the map but eventually tire themselves out. The under-appreciated Broccoli is the grunt of the game, mindlessly walking towards you but often come in enough numbers to overwhelm you if you’re not careful. You can tell the developers had a lot of fun creating the villains here and it really shows.
This all comes to ahead in the random boss fights which punctuate each chapter. There’s a giant Broccoli stem that stomps around an arena and spawns waves of smaller Broccoli to hunt you down. There’s a coconut that gets thrown at you by a UFO flying alien. There’s a giant carrot that turns the screen into a bullet hell maze. A mushroom that’s…actually pretty useless to be honest. Most of these boss battles are a real challenge on your twin-stick skills but not all of them were created equally.
To defeat these veggies, you’re going to need some meaty weaponry because your pistol just isn’t going to cut it. You can carry 2 guns and a melee weapon at any one time, each of which can be switched out for anything you find along the way, dropped by defeated foes, collected from crates as rewards for clearing buildings or bought in the shop (which takes the coins dropped by killed veggies as a currency). There’s a wide range of weapons to pick up in The Walking Vegetables from the standard fare of rifles, auto shotguns, rifles and rocket launchers to exotic specimens like the Chilli gun which fires Mario-esque bouncing flames. Each weapon has their own strengths and weaknesses – like slow fire rate but with high damage – and the game ensures you’re always getting appropriate ammo so at least you’re not having to rely on your pistol often.
When you do die in The Walking Vegetables – and you will die often – you lose all your weaponry, cash and progress. The only thing you do retain is a persistent currency called ‘Radrocks’. These are a rare item that are usually awarded to you after defeating a boss and can be spent in the store to unlock skills and fast travel. By including these items, death doesn’t feel like a total loss so even if you’ve only made it through a single chapter of the game, you’ve at least made some progress towards making the game a tad easier in the future.
Visually, The Walking Vegetables really leans into the 80’s aesthetic without throwing in too many pop culture references or being too cliche. There’s pink neon and pastel colours, grotty streets and eventually a retro sci-fi vibe going on. Having the top down viewpoint, the game world can be hard to read at times, especially where vertical fences are involved, which is in stark contrast to how well this game deals with tall buildings, making them semi-transparent when your character or an enemy goes behind them.
As for the game play, The Walking Vegetables sticks to all of the staples of the twin-stick shooter genre. You’re running and gunning and avoiding whatever the fiendish fruit basket inhabitants throw at you. The game can get quite intense and fast paced at times, especially during the optional buildings because enemies can spawn in from anywhere and you often find your quiet, already cleared out corners suddenly full of murderous mushrooms and killer tomatoes. While this title lacks any innovation, sticking to the genre tropes, it’s still a slick product that does all of the basics very well.
The Walking Vegetables also includes a local co-op mode. Hook up a second Dualshock 4 and you get to add a Macho Man Randy Savage-like character to fight alongside you. The game handles this admirably, keeping the camera on the action for both playable characters but if you really do split up, stretching the screen, it can cause a few surprise attacks from peas and carrots hiding off screen.
As Twin-Stick shooters go, The Walking Vegetables: Radical Edition is a competent entry. If you’re a fan of the genre and play a lot of them, as this critic does, this game might feel a little too familiar though. It makes no attempt to break new ground or innovate on any of its mechanics, meaning that despite fighting off a unique enemy in the form of fruit and vegetables, you might as well be playing any number of other titles in the genre. The roguelike-like element, providing you with permanent currency that carries forward between deaths, makes for an appealing game play loop but it’s not enough to elevate the game from a stale salad to a freshly picked punnet.
The Walking Vegetables: Radical Edition is available now on PS4 (review version), Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.
Developer: Still Running
Publisher: Merge Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we received a code for the game from the publishers. Please see our review policy for more information.
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