Like that old Ronseal advert from the nineties, Crimsonland does exactly what it says on the tin: It delivers buckets of blood that’ll paint your screen as sanguine as a vintage bottle of cabernet sauvignon. That analogy is apt, too, as this top-down twin-stick shooter is a bit of a vintage classic, which released on PC back in 2003, and was later given the remaster treatment for PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox One and iOS. The latter iteration has landed on the eShop, though the question is: Does this blast from the past still hold up? Well, if you’re in the mood for shooting lots and lots of mutant spiders, then, yes — there’s absolutely fun to be had here, albeit for an afternoon or two.
Very much like the classic arcade shooters of yore - Smash TV or Geometry Wars et al - the beauty of Crimsonland leans heavily into its ardent, unpretentious simplicity. You move, you shoot, and you occasionally reload, and that’s about it. It’ll take you approximately three seconds to “get” what you need to do, and that’s a big part of the game’s likeable charm. There’s no overly complex narrative or hidden meanings here. Instead, it’s you and a gun, against a growing horde of nasty mutants that are hellbent on seeing you pushing up those virtual daisies. You’ve got to respect Finnish developer 10tons’ no nonsense ‘tude.
Though it lacks some of the visual pizzazz of say, a Dead Nation or a Super Stardust HD, it’s nice to see that there are some neat risk and reward-centric emergent gameplay twists folded into the formula. These take the form of randomised pickups that range from powerful nuke-style offensive power-ups, mighty game-changing perks (like faster reload or increased fire-rate), to a plethora of shiny new unlockable guns. It’s impressive how deep the rabbit hole goes, as there’s an asinine amount of cool stuff to unlock.
Every time you begin, you always start levels with your ol’ reliable pistol, but thankfully your first kill always drops a random, more powerful piece of ordnance. The rub is you can only carry one gun at a time, so choosing your armaments and perks wisely can mean the difference between composing a symphony of blood, guts and rock and roll, or more upsettingly, hearing your corpse’s gut-wrenching gurgling as the throngs of monstrosities tear you limb from limb.
Between the two modes on offer — Quests and Survival — the latter stands out as the real star. Though the first campaign-style mode allows you to unlock new weapons and perks, Survival is a pure, unadulterated burst of edge-of-your-seat gameplay where you’re tasked with surviving for as long as you possibly can. It’s nail-biting stuff, and definitely where it’s at.
Rounding out the package is the inclusion of up to four player co-op and this is where Crimsonland effectively drops the ball. Playing with an extra player with a split Joy-Con each seems like an absolute no-brainer. Unfortunately, this isn’t supported at the time of writing. It feels like a missed opportunity, as the allure of out-of-the-box couch multiplayer action seems like an obvious choice, especially considering the nature of the hardware. Sadly, if you want to get your multiplayer fix in Crimsonland on Switch, you’ll have to make sure that you have another pair of Joy-Cons, or a Pro Controller lying around to partake. Bummer.
In all, Crimsonland is a solid twin-stick shooter that is mechanically tight. It may be fairly simplistic in execution and a little light on flair, however, its risk and reward-centric gameplay has a surprising amount of depth and the potential to hook you in, particularly if you’re in the mood for a fun survival romp in short bursts. It may not be outstanding to look at, or indeed listen to, but it’s a pure, easy-to-pick-up gameplay experience that comes dangerously close to becoming pretty addictive stuff.
Crimsonland (Reviewed on Nintendo Switch)
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
It may not be outstanding to look at, or indeed listen to, but Crimsonland is a pure, easy-to-pick-up gameplay experience that comes dangerously close to becoming pretty addictive stuff.