While I can certainly appreciate all the artistic, stylized games to hit the PlayStation Network since the launch of the PlayStation 4, there’s still plenty of room for an old fashioned, hard hitting twin-stick shooter that’s all about one thing: turning various bloodthirsty creatures into corpses. In that vein I decided to take the plunge and check out 10tons’ Crimsonland, a game that first hit PC back in 2003, to see how it found life on consoles. Let’s go to the tape.
Move with the left stick, aim with the right and pull the trigger to shoot. Toss in a manual reload (right bumper) and you’re good to go. The game does support using the PS4’s touchpad, but it felt woefully out of place. For the most part the controls are tight, and displaying the remaining ammo in your clip alongside the aiming reticule was a good decision. The reticule feels a bit close to you, however, while a superior version is hidden away amid the game’s perks (and they only work on certain modes).
To say that presentation is not Crimsonland‘s selling point would be an understatement. The game is incredibly simplistic, offering a top-down perspective of barren worlds — the only difference from one location to another is the color of the ground — with a basic looking array of stereotypical cannon fodder (bugs, aliens, zombies). The persistent saturation of the ground in fiend blood is a cool touch and makes for quite a picture at the end of a level, but it’s pretty much the only redeeming quality.
About the only thing I can say for the audio side was that it wasn’t annoying. In fact, even after hours of playing I can’t recall what the music sounds like. The sound effects don’t move the needle, either.
If you’re looking for a story or even a loose plot, there isn’t one. This is you, standing alone and then getting swarmed by angry creatures. Your job is to kill them all without getting dead yourself; a task that is most definitely easier said than done.
Quest mode is the primary offering, tasking you with completing six 10-level worlds. Each level has a definitive start and end point, and clearing them unlocks weapons, perks and new modes. Once you finish them all you unlock hardcore, which challenges you to run the 60-level gauntlet again against a more imposing deployment of enemies. Do that, and it’s on to Grim.
As noted, beating levels on Quest gives you access to more content. What’s odd about it is that none of those unlocks help with the actual Quest mode. Weapon drops remain random, and the dizzying array of perks only comes into play in Survival and Blitz modes.
And therein lies the biggest problem with Crimsonland. Success or failure has more to do with what weapons get dropped than your own skill; after playing for a couple hours I could almost instantly diagnose whether it was worth pressing on beyond the opening moments based on what fell from the first few enemies. Sure, there were times where my tactics played into how I fared on a level — such as making an ill-advised run for a power-up — but it largely came down to my arsenal.
Beyond just weapon drops, the frequency and type of power-ups is also paramount to success. There aren’t a ton of them, but they feel well thought out and can alter the landscape in a flash. Among the more effective ones are a speed boost, a cube that freezes all enemies and the crowd pleasing flame ammo. Knowing when to grab them (or if you should even try for them) is something that comes with practice, and the game gets more fun as you get the rhythm.
In addition to Quest, Crimsonland also features five variants: Survival, Blitz, Rush, Weapon Pick and Nukefism. Of that group, three are destined for afterthought status. Rush covers the screen in enemies and gives you only an assault rifle with which to fight them. Weapon Pick scatters guns around the map that can be picked up but not reloaded, and Nukefism takes away your guns and leaves you with power-ups as your only means of defense. All three are gimmicky and limited.
That leaves Survival and Blitz, which is essentially Survival with the speed turned up. It’s here that the perks come into play as each time you fill a meter a random grouping of four perks appears, allowing you to pick one. There are literally dozens of options, though you rarely get the exact one you were hoping for. It’s an enjoyable setup, and odds are this is where you’ll spend most of your time.
Crimsonland supports up to four players locally, and it’s when teaming with another person that the game gets exponentially more enjoyable. It’s a great multiplayer game in that it requires almost no instruction, is fast paced and can hold up for short or longer gameplay sessions. If you have friends that like to come over and play co-op, there’s fun to be had.
Although Crimsonland isn’t much to look at and scarcely deviates from its core experience, it’s still a fun game to play, and one that’s surprisingly addictive. If you’ve got any love for twin-stick shooters you’d do well to pick this up.