We had a UROP meeting on January 26th where there was some interest in doing a beat 'em up/shoot 'em up. I'm a big fan of the overhead/side-scrolling type of game, and encouraged the team to think 2D, simply given the amount of time we have. If we go for this genre, we should put an interesting spin on it, because trying to be distinctive in this space is going to be hard. Most of the content out there is designed by diehard fans or industry veterans.
One of the biggest problems with that genre is that you can't see more than 10 feet (figuratively) from the character. Of course, this also means that you don't have to draw so much on screen at once. How might "peripheral vision" work in a top-down perspective?
Right now, the word "casual" is pretty much synonymous with puzzle games, but that's not necessarily a hard-and-fast. "Casual games" have other traits in common... a relatively chill atmosphere, a forgiving system (it's not about losing, it's about how well you can win), short snippets of play, targeted at non-"hardcore" players, and so on. Is it possible to imagine a "casual" shooter/beat-em-up?
(Links to various games after the jump)
bit Generations (GBA) (Site is a little slow)
Other interesting resources for Shmups (shoot-em-ups):
ABA Games (Mostly PC)
Kenta Cho is one of the most advanced shmup game designers. I liken his approach to be something like jazz... he takes a single convention from the genre and builds a whole game around variations on that theme.
Very detailed Wikipedia article on genre variations
Manifesto Games (Mostly PC and Mac)
There's even an online publisher that has a whole section for this type of game. If you make a good enough game we can consider this as a potential future outlet. (Henry already knows Greg Costikyan personally.)