So I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know shit about fuck about fashion. I wear jeans, sneakers, and a hoodie whenever winter rolls around, and my most daring attempts to spruce my wardrobe up mainly amount to wearing more button ups. I know plenty of people who make their fashion choices well known and some who even get that sweet sweet influencer money for just curating their entire aesthetic. Shoutout to the goths, shoutout to the hypebeasts, shoutout to everyone who manages to know what they’re about eventually and commit their closets to representing that. Hell, shoutout to the green Triforce shirt and cargo shorts-havers for daring to change it up from a black band t-shirt. This is all to say that actual fashion discussion, despite my own naivete on the subject, is leagues better than having to play Fashion Police Squad.

Mopeful Games, a studio from Finland, went ahead and made a boomer shooter with a unique twist, but it ultimately does more harm than good. You play Sergeant Des, a member of the Fashion Police Squad (FPS, you get it?) who’s in charge of hitting the beat and taking down all sorts of fashionable no-nos. From drab suits to vaping hooligans, you’re tasked with using your arsenal to bring these threats down and bring peace to the streets. As you go through the game you unlock more weapons to engage with various enemies all while navigating a plot that could be bigger than the fashion statements you encounter.

Fashion Police Squad Exposed Boxers

I think that the presentation is decent, at the very least. 2D characters roaming around 3D spaces is the standard for a Doom clone, but putting that in a metropolitan context is enough of a shakeup to notice. Parodies of fashion brands and ads are thrown about in a way that would resemble a busy downtown space. The good thing about boomer shooters is they tend to be very clean in presentation, especially when it comes to the UI, so you won’t get bogged down by clunky health bars or unnecessary indicators. Des is right next to his health bar in the lower left, which gets mustier and dustier the more health you lose. Your weapons are indicated on the lower right and can be toggled through independent buttons, or accessed on an easy to pull scroll wheel. As the objective for a level changes so too does the marker, a bright green in contrast to the whites and grays of chic urban living.

So that’s the good stuff out of the way, because holy crap was this tough to get through.

The appeal of FPS games building right on top of the Doom and Wolfenstein model is that you get speed and options. There can be a whole mob of enemies sprinting at you but so long as you’ve got some choices for long, mid, and close range combat then it’s not too bad and can even be fun to get a hang of. Fashion Police Squad opts instead for a “square peg to square hole” design philosophy; there’s an assortment of guns that you can use, but each more or less only damages one enemy in particular. Drab or neon bright enemies can get handled by the color shotgun, loose clothes get dealt with by the sewing machine gun, you use the belt whip for enemies that need a cinched waist, sock gnomes—yes, one of the weapons is literally just gnomes that you throw with the intent of dealing with one specific fashion crime (socks with sandals)—scramble to get to your target and prevent them from attacking before ultimately making them docile.

Fashion Police Squad Sock Gnome Weapon

That on its own isn’t horrible, but golly is having to juggle multiple enemies at once just frustrating. It’s like getting back home after a night out and you have to pee really bad but you’re kind of blitzed so you’re trying to find the right key and then you realize you double locked the door and have to find the other key. Is this very specific? Yeah obviously. Is this an apt explanation of my experience dealing with the gradual difficulty ramping up in the game that gets murky due to the sheer noise that gets added to each mob? Undoubtedly so. It’s frustrating when you want to just unload on a crowd with a shotty and it’s just not an option because some characters are immune. Not even just stronger than the weapon (as to require more bullets or focus), but just completely incompatible.

The game tries to remedy this with a super move you can build up, a fashion slap that lets you teleport from enemy to enemy. It’s fun, but it highlights the feel that the game should have at all times. There’s a strategy in being able to use all of your guns and reloading ammo as necessary and resorting to melee when absolutely necessary. The puzzle matching system works conceptually, but in practice, it feels like a chore.

Fashion Police Squad Vapenation Storefront

Now for the elephant in the room: Why the fuck are we using ball culture to make jokes about Karens and the police? Mopeful, as said, is a studio from Finland, and this juxtaposition feels borne from that separation of culture. It sucks that you have to play cop as is, but this thin veneer that’s played with by having a queer-coded Black character as the focal point just feels weird. You redress enemies as a booming voice says things like “Sassy!” and “Marvelous!” Each level ends with all the enemies you took down voguing at the precinct ball. That super move I mentioned activates by having Des do a dip and then going on his fashionista rampage. Like, this isn’t anything new in regard to industries stealing the terminology of queer and BIPOC cultures to sell products, as is very noticeable now in the world of fashion, but to make a whole FPS parody where you mash up communities very easily targeted by the police and jokes about being the police is just tone deaf all around.

The dialogue is tongue in cheek, but if Des and the crew can’t be bothered to care about the villains in their story then what’s the point? I swear, sincerity won’t kill you if you try to do it in a game. Hell, DOOM (2016) is earnest in how hardcore and fucked up the Doomslayer is because that adds to the vibe of ripping and tearing. Let me believe that poor fashion truly is a plague on this world if I’m gonna have to spend hours correcting these supposed wrongs.

Fashion Police Squad Precinct Ball

This also just becomes a focus on how the fashion itself is represented. Each enemy in the game has their own fashion crime: drab colors, ill-fitting suits, saggy jeans, flame print douchebags who breathe fire. These jokes, if anything else, just feel very outdated when you look at the fashion trends of the last year or two. Crocs are a customizable fashion statement, socks and sandals have become inseparable in some streetwear combinations, and vibrant colors can truly be a statement all their own alongside the standard blazer and slacks combo a majority of these enemies default to once dealt with. Someone like me would look fine in a lot of these rehabilitated looks, but it’s a very limited glance at fashion that also just ends up on the opposite end of what the appropriated tropes ultimately go for. I truly struggle to think who this game is for in the time I spent with it.

Fashion Police Squad Subway Level Gameplay

I find myself left with this question and it’s ultimately where my feelings land in the end: who is this game for? The gameplay tries to appeal to this retro-FPS resurgence, but the insistence of saying “enemy x must be dealt with weapon x” defeats the entire fun out of navigating these hallways quickly but deliberately. The themes of the game do congeal to an aesthetic that is consistent but the undertones and history just feel really uncomfortable to handle. It’s less the idea of exploitation so much as appropriation. Like yeah it wants to be positive and bright and happy, but you’re yassifying the tool of state violence. It’s the neoliberal ideal of a “wholesome game” and the fact it doesn’t even play well just twists the knife that’s already digging in. Mopeful Games is a small studio, I am in no way trying to call their approach malicious, because there definitely is an intent to have fun with an absurd premise and malleable genre. If along the way this group of friends were laughing and having fun in the process of development then I know the answer to that question I kept asking myself. To the people who enjoyed the game during beta access, then this game is definitely yours. I can’t call this game unplayable, but in the advent of how to change the tried and true formula of the first person shooter, Fashion Police Squad ends up like an ill-fitting suit: unsightly and embarrassing.

2 stars

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Rather than adopting this adage, Fashion Police Squad tries to reinvent the first person shooter but fails to keep the fun. With a drab plot, clunky gameplay, and a premise only someone outside of the US could consider humorous given the implications, this is one faux pas you should avoid at all costs.

About Maverick

Hey it’s Maverick! He/him, living out here in New York. From video games to anime and more, I’m always eager to give some thoughts.

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