With technology improving at an exponential rate, it seems like a no-brainer that developers would mine their old IP for titles that are deserving of a second chance at gaming life. With the re-release of Crimsonland by 10tons on Steam in 2014, fans of the original and those just discovering it got a chance to play a fun top-down shooter classic with better graphics, higher resolution, and enhanced designs. Now released on the Nintendo Switch, gamers can enjoy this fantastic port on the go.
Crimsonland first hit the PC scene way back in 2003, and like most top-down shooters, the premise is simple; shoot everything that moves before it kills you. With a 360-degree shooting ability, players have to gun down hundreds of little baddies ranging from zombies, aliens, spiders, demons, lizard men, and more. Enemies come at you in all directions, moving rather quickly to box you in and cut off an escape route. Making things even more difficult are nests and other monster dens which pop up randomly, spewing forth countless monsters hell-bent on your demise.
Aiding you in your quest to annihilate everything on screen is a collection of thirty weapons and fifty-five “perks”, which are unlockable throughout the game. Players can kill their foes with pistols, shotguns, flamethrowers, ion cannons, rocket launchers, mini-guns, rifles, and more. I highly enjoyed the selection and found myself strategizing on which ones would be better for each mission. Weapons randomly pop up after shooting enemies, allowing players to simply walk over them to equip. I recommend you hurry and pick them up though, as they’ll disappear after a few seconds.
Think of perks as special abilities that appear at random times throughout each mission. Players are given four choices, with each option sporting an amusing icon and a brief description. Once a selection is made, it automatically goes into effect, combining with other perks already in use. These abilities can range from shooting poison bullets, reloading faster, running at double the pace, emitting harmful radiation to nearby enemies, and more. There are so many in fact, it can be difficult to choose which ones you want over another at any given moment. Perks add a fantastic dimension to the game, giving players a huge advantage in defeating the hordes of baddies coming for them.
Complimenting the aforementioned guns and abilities, are special power attacks which players can pick up at random. These short burst items allow your protagonist to freeze everything on the screen, blow up nearby monsters instantly, turn your weapon into a temporary super killing machine, health increases, and more. I can’t tell you how many times I was saved at the last second by one of these conveniently timed Hail Marys.
Unlocked items can be reviewed via the Extras menu located on the main landing page. Players beware, however, as all weapons and perks are not created equal; I found that I actively avoided certain ones because I felt they became a detriment to winning. Case in point, the blow torch. Unlike the flamethrower, players must get insanely close to enemies for this weapon to do any damage, but by doing so, you risk dying at a much faster rate. Certain perks are also a gamble; choosing “Grim Deal” bestows upon players sixty-six percent more experience points, but it kills you instantly. If players choose the “Highlander” perk, you don’t lose any health when attacked, but there is a five percent chance of instant death. Don’t worry, there are way more helpful perks then ones requiring you to make a deal with the devil.
It’s a good thing Crimsonland offers such a wide variety of weapons and perks because there isn’t much variety when it comes to the actual gameplay and missions. The backgrounds are predominantly the same throughout, with only slight variations in colour schemes and the missions are all just running and gunning until everything moving but you is dead. Although the game is insanely fun, I did find myself getting a little bored of doing the same thing over and over for sixty quests. I would have liked a little more variation in level design (ok, any variation at all!), and perhaps some different gameplay thrown into the mix. Don’t get me wrong, Crimsonland is still intense, and it isn’t easy, but something different to look at would have been a nice touch.
Aside from the sixty-level quest mode, no top-down shooter would be complete without a rock solid survival mode. Players slowly unlock each one, with all five becoming available once the quest missions are completed. Aside from your basic “kill as many as you can before you die” option, each of the other offerings come with their own unique challenges and obstacles. If you’re looking for a challenging survival mode, Crimsonland is your game; I got my butt handed to me on several occasions, shamefully not lasting long at all!
If you’re tired of going at it solo, players have the option of local co-op that can support up to four players. I wasn’t able to try this, but I definitely could have used the help on several occasions. There are so many baddies coming at you, it can get pretty overwhelming at times. The game also has dedicated leaderboards, which give players an option to check global rankings and scores amongst friends. It’s a nice little addition that ups the competitive nature of the game.
This is all to say, the game isn’t perfect. I mentioned my displeasure on the monotony of the backgrounds and the missions in general, but there are a couple of other gripes I have with this title. For starters, I didn’t like how slow your character moves. The game allows you to speed everything up with an option in the gameplay menu, but it didn’t seem fast enough. I found myself “willing” the speed perk to pop up so I could run around faster. There were times I died because I couldn’t get away from a massive horde fast enough.