Are you one of those people who don’t care about visuals? One of those who claim to be in it purely for the gameplay? Well, 10tons’ almost outrageously simplistic shooter, Crimsonland is here to put that ethos to the test.
With little more than different coloured floors to set one stage apart from the next, this really is the true definition of a gameplay first experience. Whether that has paid dividends is up to debate, but one thing is for sure, Crimsonland is no looker.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s ugly, but that because there’s not enough going on to warrant or elicit that kind of response. On a visual level, this game just about exists. With its unforgettable character design and bland levels, the liberal pools of blood that follow your twin-sticked massacre are just about the only sign of 10ton attempting at create something that could even begin to be described as visually unique.
With a tiny little man to control and tiny, largely indistinguishable enemies to shoot at, this really is as minimal today on PS4, PS3 and Vita as it was upon its original release on PC way back in 2003. In fact, very little has changed at all.
This was and still is a game all about skill, weapons, perks and multipliers, and like the original, succeeds in so much that it does just enough to justify its minimalist visuals. Let’s be clear though, minimalist suggests a modicum of style has been applied here – that’s not the case. This is both simple and utterly boring to look at and is subsequently 100% reliant upon its gameplay being the bomb.
Well, despite being enjoyable enough in short bursts, to describe Crimsonland as the bomb (do people still use that term? Probably not……oh, who cares), would be overdoing it somewhat. It’s less the bomb and more, well, a slightly wet firecracker. It’s competent enough and the perk system and huge selection of weaponry does make it stand out from the crowd, but the simple fact is, it doesn’t do nearly enough to justify that horribly bland art style.
Despite being home to 5 game modes, many of these feel tacked on to stretch out the experience. The simplistic nature of the game dictates that all play out in very much the same way, but while many will provide little more than brief entertainment, the major modes do at least attempt to keep things interesting.
Quest mode is the core of the experience and is made up of 6 worlds and 60 stages in total. Here, while random weapon drops are the order of the day, this mode allows you to unlock weaponry and perks for some of the additional modes. While these perks and unlocks are of no use here, this bizarre unlock strategy does at least encourage you to try out different game modes.
These perk and weapon unlocks (of which there are many), are then available in both Survival and Blitz mode. While both essentially play in largely the same way, the random perk system and additional weapons give these modes in particular a unique sense of urgency and ebb and flow as you continuously push to fill a meter that will unlock the next group of random perks. It’s here that the game is at its most unique, and it’s here that the gameplay comes closest to making you forget the decidedly insipid art design.
In fairness, the other modes are entertaining enough to warrant a quick look, but none have the lasting appeal of the other, more prominent game types. Rush hands you nowt but an assault rifle while the horribly named, Nukefism allows nothing but power-ups. Weapon Rush, the most interesting of the three, has weaponry scattered around each level but only limited ammo in each. This invariably leads to a mad scramble for weapons and successfully plays up to the games strong risk versus reward mechanics.
Despite its simplicity and painfully forgettable art design, Crimsonland is nonetheless an enjoyable if somewhat limited twin stick shooter. The perk system and huge array of weaponry lend the game a certain uniqueness while a manual reload ala Gears of War does a surprisingly good job of keeping the action immediate. It’s not in the same league as the genre’s finest, but be it on your own, or with 3 friends in tow, Crimsonland does deliver its fair share of arcade style entertainment…..even if it does so in a decidedly workmanlike fashion.
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