There are very few games that allow you to kill zombies, giant spiders, aliens, and lizard people all in one go, yet that is precisely what Crimsonland allows you to do. In fact, it’s just about all Crimsonland allows you to do, but is it such a bad thing that you get the instant satisfaction of decimating hordes of monsters while they burst into bits and blood all over the fairly plain canvas that is the level you are playing? While ridiculously fun, it isn’t without flaws.
Crimsonland is a standard top-down twin-stick shooter without story, and the fairly nondescript square levels are simply a place for the seemingly endless hordes of enemies to bleed without any other distractions. The problem is that the game feels like little more than a distraction within itself. Beginning in the quest mode, your goal is simply to make it through levels that throw hordes of enemies at you, sometimes in the hundreds. There is no experience, leveling up, or points to be earned, but this is the only way to unlock weapons, additional game modes, and perks to be used in those additional modes. What this means is that there is an insipidness to the quest mode that just doesn’t sit right while going through it.
Starting off each level with just a pistol (or another basic weapon), you must kill enemies to start spawning alternate weapon drops or power-ups that help you make it through the level, because trust me, a pistol just isn’t going to cut it. The stages offer increasing levels of difficulty by altering spawn points, spawn amounts, and sometimes having units that will endlessly spawn enemies unless destroyed. There will also be mixtures of different enemy types, such as zombies, spiders, and lizard men, but I honestly never felt a drastic difference in the enemies that made this brew feel crazy. Some types would need to take more shots than others, depending on the weapon being used against them, and some did more damage than others, but overall it just felt like everything was a general re-skin of each other.
After finally finishing the quest mode, it was time to check out the modes that I had unlocked during my lifeless, yet bloody stint through the main game, and this is actually where the game seems to shine. The unlocked modes are variations on survival mode, and each features a point system, an online leaderboard, and the ability to use the perks that you unlocked while questing. As you earn points, you gain levels, and at each level you can select one new perk to help you out. I’m somewhat of a high-score junkie myself, so I love the ability to earn points, and secure my place on a leaderboard.
One mode simply gives you an unlimited assault rifle and asks you to kill enemies until you die. You don’t get power ups, you don’t get alternate weapons; it is simply a test of endurance. Another mode takes all weapons away from you and requires that you pick up the different power ups to kill enemies. Of course, the classic survival mode is my favorite, with each level gained by earning points allowing me to select from a variety of perks. These perks change the way the game is played and can either give you an edge or add a bit of spice. Every time I played felt a little different because there are so many perks and so many weapons.
There is also something that is instantly satisfying about taking a plain green or brown level and painting it red with the blood of the creatures that are coming for you. The effect of the blood, bodies, and creature bits piling up and covering the screen instills a feeling of power into your utter hopelessness. This sense of bloody accomplishment is what Crimsonland rides on, as its title would seem to imply.
I never experienced any technical problems with the game, although I had a major issue with enemies spawning right on top of me. There isn’t even a delay in when they can damage you and sometimes I would have a perfect run destroyed by one of these spawns. The developers could give more warning on upcoming spawns, prevent enemies from hurting you within the first few seconds of spawning, or just not allowed spawns within a certain distance of your character. Unfortunately none of these options were selected and it can hamper the experience.
I also had an issue with terrible random weapon spawns. Sometimes getting a terrible weapon can mean the difference between finishing the level or not, and with such a huge variety of weapons, I was surprised with how often I would get dealt the same crappy weapons over and over. Fortunately the game is so fast paced and the levels short, so you can hop right back in even if you are dealt a crappy hand or two.
Crimsonland is a fun game to sit down with two or more players while trying to compete for a spot on the leaderboards, but it ultimately feels more like a distraction itself, than a twin-stick murderfest without distractions. Even destroying hoards of spiders, zombies, lizard people, and aliens can get a little bit old when there’s not much more to the fight than cookie-cutter enemies, random weapon spawns, and a blood spattered field. Perhaps this will all be better suited when it releases on the Vita.
Review copy provided by publisher. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here. Crimsonland will be released for Vita with crossbuy at a later date.