If you’ve ever woken up with a desire to violently slaughter your fears and bathe in the blood-soaked entrails of mutant-alien spiders, undead hordes, and lizard people – the very kind you wish to banish from your mental existence – then perhaps Crimsonland is for you. After booting up the game, you’ll soon learn why 10tons’ color selection in the game’s title is appropriately fitting. In this twin-stick, top-down shooter you’ll wreak carnage and paint the land in a bloody crimson smear with your trusty collection of standard sci-fi armament. It’s all good, gory fun, but does it leave a lasting impression on PlayStation 4 or does the game serve merely as an uninspired distraction?
10ton keeps it simple right from the start. The controls are a standard affair and will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s nosedived into the genre before – you use the left analog stick to move, the right analog stick to aim, and the shoulder and trigger buttons to shoot and reload, respectively. That’s it. No swapping between weapons, no secondary projectiles, or anything of the sort. You can also use the PS4’s touchpad to aim the reticle wherever you want on screen, though I do not recommend this as it is extremely finicky. As with most top-down shooters, the gameplay prevails above all in its execution with mechanics that are fluid and responsive by design.
Crimsonland does sport a campaign that features 6 chapters – each carrying 10 stages – adding to a total of 60 stages. There is no story or dialogue, you’re simply thrown onto an extraterrestrial terrain without any description or objective, but you’ll know what to do when you see hungry hordes of enemies stampeding towards you. In Quest Mode, power-ups and weapons randomly generate around the map. You’ll start each mission with a lackluster pistol, but how events play out will depend on your skill and how you decide to go about collecting randomly generated drops. These include speed boosts, area of effect nuke bombs, time slowdowns, and more effective weapons.
Thankfully, this layout requires quite a bit of skill and strategy. What weapons or power-ups you choose to collect can be the immediate difference between life and death. In this respect, a share of the premise is purely luck-based, but with enough skill and proper decision-making, a keen player can get themselves out of any tense situation. Sadly, the addiction may quickly fall through when you realize how uninspired and repetitive the Quest Mode actually is. In its presentation, each stage looks almost identical to the one before it, bar slight changes in color palette. You’ll spray blood on empty brown turf, then some pale green turf, followed by some greenish-brown turf – and that’s about it. You’ll fight zombie hordes, lizard men, and giant spiders, but they’re simply re-skins of what you fought earlier in the campaign. Paired with the mind-pounding metal music that sounds much too similar to the track you heard two stages ago, it’s easy to tune out and look for a more varied experience.
The remedy for the jaded, humdrum campaign is Survival Mode. This is the bread and butter of Crimsonland and there are five different variations of this mode to experience: Survival, Rush, Weapon Picker, Nukefism, and Blitz. One mode forces you to fend off enemies with just a rifle, while another forces you to survive by collecting power-ups as they spawn across the map. The most notable of these modes, however, is Survival. In this mode, you’re tasked to fight off endless waves of enemies as you level up and choose perks that will improve your chances of survivability. If there is any reason to tire through the campaign, it’s to reap the rewards that help make Survival Mode better. The further you progress through the campaign, the more weapons and perks you unlock for Survival. You cannot use perks in the campaign, but they are significant to the base purpose of these modes. Perks and weapons are not particularly varied or ground-breaking – some more powerful than others no matter the situation – but having unlockables is better than having nothing.
High score seekers will be spending most of their time in Survival trying to climb up the leaderboards. Moreover, the game does provide local co-op up to four players. This does excite the experience a little bit, albeit for a short amount of time, although it’s disappointing that you can’t take your cooperative talents online. Even so, tackling high scores with your friends will add some longevity to the game after you’ve triumphed it on your own, but whether it warrants some weekend-long couch co-op that is worth your time will depend on how willing you are to look past the largely outdated gameplay and presentation.
Crimsonland is fun in spurts, but it ultimately fails to stand out from the top-down shooter crowd. Its love for retro twin-stick gameplay is evident, but in the eighth console generation it merely comes off as archaic, especially in comparison to games like Dead Nation. Still, the game does offer a quick distraction when there’s not much else to do or play, but because of this, 10tons’ killing spree romp feels better suited for the PlayStation Vita, not its newfound PS4 parent.