We all know how twin-stick shooters work by now, right? You’ve got your controller with two analog sticks (or a mouse and keyboard for you traditionalists out there), an arsenal of guns, an army of baddies and a score tracker. While variations do exist (shoot through space, shoot through zombies, etc.), it’s hardly a revolutionary genre, albeit an extremely fun one. On that note, let’s talk about Crimsonland, a somewhat generic top-down twin-stick shooter that manages to squeeze a ton of fun out of its premise.
Taking the functional parts of every twin-stick shooter you’ve ever played and injecting just a hint of RPG elements in for good measure, Crimsonland doesn’t quite transcend the genre, but it certainly makes an extremely fun case for revisiting it. Eschewing the story-based style of games like Dead Nation and Alien Breed for a bigger focus on arena type matches, Crimsonland offers functional gameplay with tons of replayability at a low cost.
Revisiting 10tons’ first entry in the gaming world, Crimsonland puts you in the boots of a Trooper faced with gunning down waves upon waves of baddies that have no relation to each other, including mutant spiders, aliens, lizards and zombies (of course). Beyond that, there really isn’t any story to speak of.
Gameplay-wise, Crimsonland is functional and will feel instantly familiar to any veterans of the genre. Guns fire as fast as you can pull the trigger, your aim is quick and true as long as your fingers are, and you’ll see an uber-satisfying splat of blood, guts and bones every time you destroy yet another creature. If you’re lucky, an enemy will gift you with a single-use item, a temporary upgrade or a new weapon when you see fit to disassemble them. On a primal level, this is about as fun as shooters get. The screen fills with a staggeringly impressive amount of baddies, you fire a staggeringly impressive amount of bullets and ever the twain shall meet.
The game offers two different modes of play: Quests and Survival. Quests serve as the “story” aspect, and while they’re fun to play through, the only motivation for doing so is to net achievements and unlock weapons and perks. These last two figure heavily into the Survival mode, which itself is made up of five different types of survival rounds. Much of the fun you’ll derive from Crimsonland will be found within the various Survival modes, as the added RPG elements work surprisingly well and make the game endlessly replayable.
In classic Survival mode, scores are racked up until a level is gained, at which point you’re offered one of a few perks you’ve unlocked, and those continue to stack until you die. Unlocked weapons are dropped, and as more perks are utilized, the number of enemies multiply to match. It’s simple and far from innovative, but you could lose days trying to survive the hoard.
Other Survival modes fair just as well and offer a ton of variety: one might find you gunning down baddies with an assault rifle with infinite ammo, while another will actually limit your ammo to one clip and force you to constantly pick up new weapons. The lack of innovation is made up for by the insane amount of fun offered with each mode.
Where the game shines is in the impressive amount of unlockable content it offers and how much it actually affects the game. By playing through Quest mode, you unlock over 30 guns and 50 perks which have a huge impact in Survival mode. While the gameplay modes themselves aren’t anything new or unique, some of the perks and guns are just that. Some perks will have you risking death for higher point totals or trading health for armor, while more traditional options will have you shooting fire bullets or just plain nuking your enemies.
However, the biggest flaw holding Crimsonland back is its Quest mode. While the quests aren’t fundamentally flawed in any way, they feel shoehorned in as a way to hold back some of the better perks and weapons from players. Each quest has you gunning down enemies until they’re all dead with no variation in between. Although it’s a fun introduction to the game, it becomes a slog around the third chapter, and a difficult slog at that. The difficulty curve is all over the place, with some later levels serving as torture if you dare play solo. Luckily, local multiplayer is offered, and it’s a blast as expected.
It’s a shame that perks can’t be used in quests, as that could have shaken up the formula enough to make them more interesting and ultimately more fun to play through. As it is, though, quests become a bore way too fast, and the only motivation to finish them is to unlock new difficulties and all of the perks and weapons.
The only other complaint may be a completely subjective one, but it’s still an annoyance: your Trooper moves incredibly slow. I understand that it adds to the tension to just barely escape the hoard by the skin of your teeth, but the Trooper walks through the battlefield like he’s on his way to his in-laws’ and he doesn’t really want to get there before dessert.
At the end of the day, Crimsonland is far from a bad game. It offers a functional, exciting and downright addictive experience with its Survival modes, and even if the quests can’t match the intensity, they’re still fun little challenges. For the price ($13.99, but you can pick it up on sale this week), you’re getting a short, entertaining burst of adrenaline that you might not touch a month or so from now, but will hold you over just fine until more triple-A titles poke their heads out of hibernation.
This review is based on a PlayStation 4 copy of the game given to us for review purposes.