Video Game Review: Crimsonland [PS Vita/PS4/Steam]

Crimsonland [PS Vita/PS4]

Crimsonland 
System: PS Vita [reviewed], PS4, Steam
Genre: Top-down shooter
Developer: 10tons Ltd.
Publisher: 10tons Ltd.
Price: $8.99 (cross buy)
Release Date: August 19, 2014 (Vita)

Crimsonland is an apt title for a game that lets you paint the landscape red with the blood of your enemies. Originally released for the PC way back in 2003, this kinda-cult classic has been remastered and released on Steam, PS4 and PS Vita. For this review, I am focusing on the Vita version.

In this top-down shooter, you play as an unnamed soldier with your goal being to kill everything in sight — including aliens, spiders, zombies and mutant lizards. These enemies flood the screen in large waves, dozens at a time. Certain levels push that number closer to 100, creating some ridiculous mayhem on screen (with no slowdown either). As you wipe out more and more enemies, the game’s backdrop begins to turn red — a fitting portrait of the chaos around you.

Crimsonland [PS Vita/PS4]

The game’s main campaign mode consists of 60 levels, most of which can be completed in a minute or two. You always start out with an unfortunately weak pistol as your main weapon, but new options appear on the ground as soon as you start killing monsters. These new weapons begin to unlock for further use as you progress through the campaign, with a grand total of 30 firearms eventually available. These include everything from rocket launchers to shotguns to flamethrowers, with some of them rigged to shoot multiple bullets/rockets at once. There are also random powerups dropped throughout each level, such as the ability to gain speed, or nuke everything on screen.

There is quite a bit of randomness to the campaign, but a tremendous amount of skill is still required. Just playing through on normal mode can be challenging, especially once you get to the final chapter. Once you finish this, a new hardcore difficulty opens up. If somehow you manage to get past that, there is an even more difficult Grim mode available. While the later levels can grow frustrating at times, the game never feels unfair. With a little bit of patience and the right maneuvering, you can usually get yourself through even the most complicated situations. If not, well, it only takes a split-second to reload the level.

Crimsonland [PS Vita/PS4]

Progressing through the campaign also unlocks new perks that can be used in the game’s other main feature: survival mode. This is where the game really shines. In this mode, you face an endless onslaught of enemies, and your goal is just to survive as long as you can. This time, however, your character can level up. Each time this happens, you get to choose from one of three perks — some of which are a huge help (i.e. faster reloads, more ammo, etc.) while others are more quirky than anything (i.e. the “fatal lottery” where you get a 50/50 chance of either dying or gaining 30k experience points).

There are a few spinoffs of survival mode as well. “Rush” has you survive as long as possible with just an assault rifle. “Weapon Picker” supplies random weapons with only a limited amount of ammo for each. “Nukefism” omits weapons entirely, forcing you to pick up Nukes and other powerups instead. Finally, “Blitz” is a turbo-paced version of the main survival mode. Each one of these game types has a leaderboard as well, further enhancing replay value.

As you can see, there is a surprising amount of depth to Crimsonland, and its trophies encourage you to play the game to its fullest. There are trophies for beating the game on each difficulty level, as well as ones for meeting a certain score in each mode. Unfortunately, there are only bronze awards available, but they are still fun to go after all the same.

Crimsonland [PS Vita/PS4]

Crimsonland‘s only real weakness is in its aesthetics. To be blunt, the game is not visually pleasing in the slightest. The graphics are as minimalistic as it gets, and the only visual satisfaction comes in seeing the color red expand slowly across the screen. I would have loved to see this game get a proper HD treatment with enhanced visuals, but it was not meant to be. The sound is also distinctly average at best; the music is generic guitar rock, and the sound effects are hardly anything of note.

With its subpar presentation, it’s a damn good thing that Crimsonland excels where it truly matters: its gameplay. This has the familiar and addictive “gotta play just one more level” mentality similar to other recent indie hits like Luftrausers and Rogue Legacy. The campaign levels and excursions into survival mode are all over in a matter of minutes, making it hard to resist playing just one more time (which can easily lead to unexpected gaming binges). For its current $8.99 asking price ($7.19 for PS+ users), there is a ton of value here, and it’s well worth a look for PS Vita gamers.

8/10

(A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review.)


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