Twin stick shooters are nothing new, but the shoot em up sub genres has fiercely loyal fans. Two of my favourite twin stick shooters are Geometry Wars 2 and Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team, the former sporting a very old-school and simplistic design approach and the latter offering a more modern TS shooter with a story to tell. 10 Tons (developer of Sparkle and King Oddball) have just released ‘Crimsonland’, a basic but addicting twin stick shooter that looks to overwhelm the player with a staggering amount of enemies on screen at once. Luckily, they have also provided a very healthy arsenal of weapons too.
Like most twin stick shooters, the controls are extremely accessible and easy to get a grasp of. Moving your character is controlled by the left analogue stick, and aiming is controlled by the right. Shooting is controlled by the right trigger and reloading is automatic, though you do have the option to reload before your clip is empty via the left bumper. The PlayStation 4 version of Crimsonland also allows players to aim and shoot via the touch pad on the Dual Shock 4’s controller, though why they would want to is beyond me as the analogue sticks are perfectly comfortable and accurate and the moving with the left analogue stick and using the touch pad is extremely awkward, like a Nintendo 64 game that uses the left and middle prong of the controller. Your hands will just naturally prefer a traditional controller grip.
Crimsonland offers a number of gameplay modes, each with different gameplay that distinctly varies from the others. The first mode available is Quest mode, which offers a plethora of different levels, each with a distinctly different feel. Some will see you facing off against a horde of zombies, others will have you frantically trying to destroy monster spawning nests lest you be overwhelmed by hundreds of spiders. There are also lizard men, more powerful variations of enemies and even more monsters to combat.
In addition to Quest Mode, there is also Survival Mode, which has a more classic feel to it while still offering a number of different sub modes. Not all of them are winners though, as some feel too difficult, even for Crimsonland which loves to provide a challenge. Rush mode sees the player having unlimited ammunition, but being unable to pick up different weapons. It’s a futile struggle, as the game’s spawning mechanics are so fast that you know your number is up pretty quickly, and not in a fun way. Also disappointing is Weapon Picker mode, where guns have only one clip and spawn randomly. Both of these sub modes could have been an absolute blast, but it feels like a lack of refinement means players will skip them and play classic survival and mission mode instead.
Now as gamers know, its one thing to boast variety in your enemies but if they all behave the same, what’s the point? Thankfully, 10 Tons have managed to create several different types of enemy that all behave differently from each other. As you probably would have guessed, the zombies move very slowly, the challenge being that they are surprisingly hard to take down (especially the giant green zombies!). Spiders however, move infrequently but rapidly, meaning they’re somewhat trickier to shoot. Even as I write this, I’m hours into the game, and still encountering new enemies that require new tactics in order to survive.
Weapon-wise, there is a vast amount of guns on offer. There are shooter standards, such as the pistol, shotgun and assault rifle, but there are also more unique weapons, such as blow torches and ion cannons. Part of Crimsonland’s appeal is in finding your favourite weapons and also which weapons are more effective against the game’s various enemies. The shotgun for example, is more effective against zombies when they’re huddled together, but is less effective against enemies you need to keep your distance from, such as spiders.
In addition to the weapons, there are also power ups which will spawn randomly and drop from defeated enemies. Some are devastating, such as the nuke and fire ammunition, but others have a more defensive purpose, like the shield and sprint power up. What I really enjoy about the power ups though, is that they can stack on top of existing weapons and each other. You can pick up a fire bullet power up, and then further increase its power with split shots or increased weapon power, making for some truly awe-inspiring combinations.
Now while Crimsonland does offer entertaining and accessible gameplay, there are some definite weaknesses in the overall package. Thankfully, these do not affect the fun on offer; they’re merely some areas that could have been executed a little better. One of them is the game’s soundtrack, which is extremely repetitive, even more than Minecraft and Terraria, which have mind-numbing soundtracks. There’s no denying that a kickass soundtrack can really heighten the atmosphere and experience of a game, and the ultra-violence and frantic gameplay found in Crimsonland could have really benefited from a more Doom-like soundtrack.
Crimsonland’s other weak point, is its visuals. I understand the 10 Tons might not have wanted to overwhelm the player with a visually-confusing mess, but even a bombed-out car or collapsed building in the mix would have been nice, as would some more detailed textures. I don’t say this often about visually-simplistic games, but Crimsonland’s visuals don’t do its engrossing gameplay justice. It’s like a delicious meal that looks like some sort of brown mousse. You might not want to try it based on its looks.
- Accessible and addicting gameplay
- Multiplayer is great fun
- Huge amount of missions, weapons and enemies.
- Bland graphics
- Boring and repetitive soundtrack. I’d recommend muting it.
Crimsonland isn’t going to wow people with its graphics or soundtrack, but it will win over twin stick shooter fans with its challenge and variety of content. It’s also pretty flexible in regards to time. You can literally play this game for as little as a minute or as long as you would like, making it a great little time (and mutant) killer.