The Vita has always seemed like a prime candidate for the release of solid dual-joystick shooter. Sadly the the Vita library isn't the most jam packed, and the search for such a shooter turns up a mostly barren wasteland. Though Sony did rerelease Dead Nation on the Vita, that version was severely lacking, so Crimsonland is the first prominent dual-joystick shooters on PSN. With a simple concept backed up by a nostalgic hook, Crimsonland has the ability to stand out in the Vita library, but is it able to actually accomplish what it sets out to do?
With one joystick to control the character's movements and the other to control where he's aiming, the concept is pretty simple to grasp. Such a long-running genre has had its share of good and bad games, but luckily, Crimsonland is an example of the former. The joysticks on the Vita aren't always the most precise, but Crimsonland feels smooth and well crafted. You start every level with your character in the center of the map as aliens and monsters begin to swarm. You start with a pistol and unlock more devastating weapons as you progress. The enemies also start to vary and become more aggressive the farther you get into the missions, ranging from charging aliens, to giant bugs, to shambling hordes of zombies (because of course zombies). Enemies you kill may drop other weapons or power ups that might do such things as freeze your enemies or launch waves of energy from your body to help clear the field.
The game tracks such things as kills, accuracy, and shots fired, and if you manage to make it through a level without dying, you'll also be rewarded with a gold star. Accumulating more of these unlocks extra survival mode mission types, starting from an infinite survival mode, and then leading into missions with more constraints -- using a specific weapon, for example. Survival missions are all about score building. You have levels based on the points you collect and each time you level up you get to pick a perk, giving you boosts or taking one skill in exchange for buffing another. Survival is a true test of your skills and one of the more fun modes in the game.
Crimsonland clearly is aiming at Doom nostalgia from the 90's, starting off with an homage to the classic shooter's title screen, continuing down to such things as the soundtrack. As for the actual look of the game, just be ready to see a lot of the color red. You will decimate countless amounts of enemies that all seem to pop like a water balloon and stain the map. The maps themselves aren't very distinct and are mostly just bland browns and grays before they get completely splattered in blood. The weapons all sound pretty good, a plus since you're almost always shooting. If you're not into the constant gun sounds, though, the soundtrack makes up for it -- it's great, and plays constantly.
If you love a good dual joystick shooter then Crimsonland is the best choice on the Vita. The biggest problems are simply the lack of visual variety and the Vita's own issue with joystick precision, but other than that Crimsonland is a game well worth the price of admission.