Developer: 10tons

Publisher: 10tons Ltd

 

Release Date: November 24th, 2017

Price as of Article: $13.99 USD, £13.99

Story

There is not much story in this game.  The story is mostly told through the titles of the stages, but these don’t give many details.  It is mostly flavor text.  Basically, the story is that you are a soldier trying to stop an alien invasion through sheer grit and determination all by your lonesome.  This is a man who must have really had a love for all things Rambo.

Audio

The music of Crimsonland is suited to the action of the game.  It follows a heavy metal rhythm which never really lets up regardless of if you are in the menus or playing a stage.  The constant volley of gunshots while you are playing adds a beat to the music that enhances it to an extent.  There isn’t much variety to the music, but there doesn’t need to be in a game like this.  With the game at its basic audio settings, you might not even hear the music much of the time over all the gunshots and sounds of creatures dying.  I found it to be a more enjoyable experience to enter the audio settings and turn the sound effects down a little under halfway and the music to max.  It allows the music to stand out far better during all the chaos.

Visuals and Performance

Inspired by classic, top-down arcade shooters, this game has the visuals to match.  They are extremely simple.  All of the enemies and your character are very small and lack detail.  For the humonoid aliens, it is difficult to tell exactly what they are supposed to be, but that allows your imagination to take over.  When I saw the small, fast moving red alien, I pictured it as an imp-like creature with running similarly to a monkey with sharp claws and fangs.  That is the beauty of classic games with such simple graphics.  If you have an imagination, these small pixels can be anything you want them to be.

 

Each gun has its own distinct look.  When they drop onto the field, it is generally easy to distinguish what exactly it is, although you do have to spend some time memorizing each one of the 30 guns.  There are a few key design elements that can help you determine what kind of attributes the guns have.  For example, all of the minigun-type weapons have a clear barrel design to indicate this.  All of the ion-based energy weapons have blue cylinders, and flame weapons all have red cylinders.  These small details add some visual flair to the guns and has a function to assist players in determining what they are immediately upon looking at them.  This absolutely helps while frantically searching for new weapons while killing hordes of furious aliens.

When you kill an alien, it dies in a massive splash of blood, and its body remains on the field.  By the end of each level, the ground will be absolutely coated with blood and body parts.

The only problem with stage designs is that there is absolutely no variety to them in an respect other than color.  The stages are completely flat with no buildings, trees or anything else of that nature.  It works for the gameplay, but having building to climb, trees or rocks to hide behind, or anything else like that would have gone a long way to livening up the experience.

I did not experience any technical difficulties with this game even when the screen was completely filled with oncoming enemies.  There was not any slowdown whatsover.  This is a stable game that you don’t need to have any concerns over.

Gameplay

This is a top-down, twin stick shooter in which your only goal is to kill, kill, kill.  There are constant waves of invading enemies, and they do not let up.  When enemy spawners appear on the field and you do not quickly destroy it, you can find yourself being overwhelmed by a screen completely full of relentless enemies.  The speed of the game in its basic settings feels a little sluggish, but this makes it easier to navigate the enemies to weave in between them.  There is an option in the settings to change the game speed to 1.5x faster than normal.  This is an option that is greatly appreciated as the game feels much more intense and fun in this speed than it does in its standard setting.  However, the game becomes much more difficult if you turn on this option.  It is essentially the game’s hard mode.  This setting can be changed at any time from the pause menu, so you can change it if you find yourself unable to complete a stage at the faster setting.

Gameplay consists of running around on flat stages and killing waves of enemies.  Occasionally, enemies will drop weapons for you to use until the end of the current stage.  If you pick up a new weapon, you lose access to the one you were previously using.  There is no risk of running out of ammo, although weapons do have ammo clips to concern yourself with.  You are mostly defenseless when reloading, so you need to judge when and where the best times are to reload your gun.  There is nothing worse than having to reload a gun with a slow reload time while in the middle of dozens of enemies.

Enemies can also drop temporary power ups which have distinct powers.  One is called Fireblast, and this power immediately fires several shots in all directions from your character.  One of the most valuable power ups is the Freeze power which freezes every enemy on the screen.  If you are being overwhelmed by enemies or there are some powers in the middle of a group of enemies, the freeze power helps you get through the crowd.  It also makes most enemies die much more quickly than they normally do.  This is a power that will get you out of many tight spots.

As you kill enemies, you will gain experience.  Upon leveling up, you have the option to select from a few random perks.  Each perk remains throughout the duration of the stage you are on, and these can make a huge difference on how you play the stage.  Some perks increase your weapon’s fire rate, help you dodge attacks, gives you a melee attack if you come into contact with an enemy or increase the duration of the random power ups you find on the stage.  With a total of 55 different perks to choose from, you will be able to mix and match them in many different ways.  Find the set up you like most and aim for that whenever you get the opportunity!

There are two main modes to Crimsonland.  The first is quest mode which consists of three difficulty settings and six chapters split up into ten quests each.  Each quest has particular kinds of enemy you will encounter and you will unlock a new perk or gun after completing each one.  To complete a quest, you must simply kill every enemy.  There is never anything more complicated than that.  It is fine since it keep players focused on the core gameplay, but it does get somewhat repetitive.  The quests generally take between 1-3 minutes, so they are short and sweet.  You never feel like you are wasting much time with them.  After completing a quest, you will see a list of your stats from the stage including how many enemies you killed, your accuracy and how long it took you to complete.  In total, it will take you about 1.5 hours to complete quest mode in one difficulty depending on how many times you die and need to repeat a stage.  Quest mode begins easy but becomes much more difficult later on.  Especially when on a stage with enemy spawners.

While playing quest mode, you will notice immediately that you start each stage with a clean slate.  Your level is reverted back to one, all the perks you selected in the previous level are lost.  You restart each stage with just the basic pistol, but the first enemy you kill almost always drops a gun for you to pick up.  Trying to pick an isolated enemy off to start a level is crucial.  If you kill one in a crowd of enemies, you will find yourself having a difficult time trying to reach the gun it dropped.  Starting each stage with nothing you obtained in the previous stage initially makes it feel like there is no sense of progression in the game, but you will quickly realize how integral it is to the game’s design because it adds a sense of variety to each level.  Your performance depends on the luck of the draw, and you won’t end up being able to rely on a single weapon to play through every stage.

Survival mode is where you will end up spending most of your time.  There are a total of five different survival modes to play in, and you unlock them by playing quest mode.  Any perks or guns you unlocked in quest mode will be accessible for survival mode as well.  The basic concept of survival mode is what you would expect: survive waves of enemies to get the highest score possible.  There is one key difference between this mode and quest mode.  In quest mode, a stage never lasts longer than a few minutes, and you will have to start over with no perks or gained weapons in the next stage.  In survival mode, your perks will constantly stack until you die.  If you do well enough, you can gain far more levels in this mode than would be possible in quest mode.  Crimsonland does not feature online multiplayer of any kind, but it does have leaderboards for the survival mode.  This is the main draw to survival mode and the reason that you will spend so much time with it.  There is a great sense of competition trying to get higher on the leaderboards in this game, and it feels like a natural fit because of Crimsonland’s arcade nature.

The controls of the game are very simple.  You move with the left stick, aim with the right, shoot with ZL or ZR and reload with L or R.  You can also toggle an option to allow you to shoot with the right analog stick.  This is inaccurate, but it does make shooting more immediate.  This makes the game easy and intuitive to pick up and play for anyone.  There is no need for more complicated controls in this game, and they really nailed this aspect of it.

Four players can join up at any time provided you have the controls.  It only works with complete sets of controls and doesn’t support the Switch’s split Joycon feature.  This game would have benefited from the option to use of split Joycon.  Using the face buttons for aiming would not be as accurate as using the second analog stick, but it would still work and would make the multiplayer more accessible for people who do not have multiple controllers.  I did get to test it with the Gamecube controller, and the game feels great when using the Gamecube controller.  If you have a GC controller adapter and some extra GC controllers laying around, then that is a very enjoyable way to play the game.

 

value

At $14, this game is on the higher end of small, indie titles on the Nintendo Switch’s eShop.  There is a fair amount of replay value because you need to rebuild your character each time you play.  If you have access to four controllers, then this makes a very fun couch co-op game to play with your friends or family.  The value is damaged a little due to the lack of online multiplayer because this game is best experienced with other people, and you won’t always have someone around to play with.  $14 might be a little high asking price for a game that boils down to little more than a fun, arcade killathon, but it is an enjoyable game that will command your focus in short bursts.