Crimsonland

There are plenty of twin-stick shooters in the market today. Each with its own power ups, explosions and mayhem. A game like this can easily give you plenty to collect or shoot, but others fall short and don't provide any substance to what you are doing and why. Crimsonland does a great job with the basic design of a twin-stick shooter, but does it fall short as an immersive experience?

Crimsonland revolves around you controlling a character stuck in a wasteland filled with an assortment of nasty bugs and creatures. Playing the ‘Quest’ mode, which begins on normal difficulty, involves six chapters comprised of challenges. The action is from a top down prospective and the controls are very simple: left stick to move, right stick to aim and right trigger to mow down your opponents. The controls are very responsive, but I do wish that the character had a dash move or special attack that could be released each round. The progression of the quest mode pits you against a progressive horde of oncoming attackers. Start off by taking care of some zombie before facing lizards, spiders, and robots. No matter what the enemies look like, you are essentially fighting the same type. What is more beneficial to remember is that each category of baddies has different attacks. It is easy to blast hundreds of green lizards only to be swarmed by two unseen orange creatures in mere steps. You soon realize, there is a level of hidden detail behind each enemy type even if the graphics are very sub-par.

The power-ups and guns you can collect are what make the game shine. Each gun has pluses and minuses, but any gun is better than what you start out with (except the blowtorch, that one just blows). You may want to burn through ammo with the machine gun, but the ION gun can take care of multiple attackers at once. Combat depends on how each round is laid out and how you plan to survive. A nice touch is being shown which gun was used the most after each round. Then there are the power-ups. One minute you could be teetering on the brink of death surrounded by a swarm of spiders and nowhere to run. All hope is lost until you spot a nice pick-me-ups. Grabbing one could lay waste to your surrounding enemies or give your character receive a speed-burst. There are plenty of power-ups but they are best left to be discovered in the heat of battle. As important as your gun is against your foes, you will not get far if without power-ups. Their appearance is also randomized. Some rounds may offer plenty while others are quite scarce.

It seems like every game nowadays has to have some kind of perk system, and Crimsonland does not disappoint. While Quest mode unlocks perks, you can only use them during Survival mode. They add yet another dimension to your character not to mention some humor in an otherwise gory game. One of my favorites is Jinxed. When enemies get near you, stuff just might happen to them. Wish I could say I was sorry, little lizard. Survival mode is exactly what you would expect; survive as long as you can. Find a weapon that works, pick up as many power-ups you see and choose wisely which perks to carry into each stage. After  shooting down your pursuers, the game will offer the ability to add a new perk. In contrast to Quest mode, Survival mode just keeps going and going with no real discernible pattern. Whereas you knew to attack hives to stop enemies from spawning in Quest mode, Survival mode keeps the enemies coming, so you best be ready.

Crimsonland does a great job at being what it is, an action packed twin-stick shoot’em up. It does not have a story, no character is worth remembering, and your PS4 will not be stressed to it’s limits. Perhaps my biggest complaint is Remote Play. This game would have been fantastic to use in Remote Play, especially since everything is so tiny. However, the developer dropped the ball by having the trigger button replaced by the back touch pad. If they had let the player map their own controls or developed it with the Vita’s shoulder buttons in mind, the control problems wouldn't exist. As it stands, Crimsonland is close to unplayable through Remote Play because it requires precise shooting, which the touch pad either recognizes or ignores your input.

Crimsonland does give you a great sense of elation when narrowly surviving a horde or tearing up the screen with power ups. There are plenty of weapons to collect and perks inspire you to play through the end to see what you earn next. Add a friend or three to play along with and the madness on screen equals the joy everyone will experience. A leaderboard in Survival mode will keep others playing for a long time, even when you are done with the entire quest. Though Crimsonland falls short at evolving the genre in any way, it offers a solid reason to sit down and enjoy a perfectly refined game.