Isn’t it funny how some things repeat themselves? I mean, JNCO Jeans were the bellbottom’s second act in the 90s, mullets returned on the heads of angsty, early-aughts scream-o bands, and the pygmy-pickup itself, the legendary El Camino, was recently reborn in the Chevy SSR. In gaming we have seen this in the form of countless video game remakes – some for better… some for not-so-better. I guess it is really truth what “the author of wisdom” wrote in the biblical book of Ecclesiastes: “There is nothing new under the sun.” But that isn’t always a bad thing. Such is the case with Crimsonland.
While it’s release on the Nintendo Switch is new, Crimsonland has been around for a while. Released as a “shareware” title in 2003, Crimsonland found success in it’s simple, yet bloody formula: point, shoot, kill, upgrade, and survive! It was upon this foundation that, in 2014, Crimsonland was remastered for digital consumption, ultimately landing on the Xbox One in 2015 and, just a few days ago, on the Switch. This is our review of Crimsonland for the Nintendo Switch.
(For all you younguns, let this “teacher of wisdom” spit some truth about shareware: this was my generations “freemium” game. You could download the full game for free and share it with your friends…hence, the name. With most games, the majority of the game and options were locked behind an activation code, but once you purchased that code, the game was yours – no microtransactions, no loot boxes, no DLC. Not a perfect system, by any means – tons of piracy sunk a lot of good companies and drove others into the arms of larger one. Yet, we should always learn from the legacy of the past and look tathow it can inform our future. Class dismissed.)
Back to the focal point of this review, Crimsonland is a top-down, twin-stick shooter that is all about surviving the round and slaying your enemies. You achieve this goal through a wealth of perks, power-ups, and enough guns to make Rambo blush. To be precise: it takes 30 guns, 55 perks, and a handful of power-ups to make Rambo blush… don’t ask me how I know that. At least, that is what Crimsonlands has to offer.
As for the power-ups, they come in a few different forms. As you mow down enemies, you will find items that will appear on the map – like shields, health packs, and bombs – which will aid you in your survival. Then, there are perks. These power-ups are unlocked as you fill and experience bar. With each level, you have the opportunity to choose options which will enhance your combat performance. These perks can extend the time of power-ups, make you fire or move faster, and even give you the worst case of B.O. since middle school.
So, what can you do with this arsenal of various flamethrowers, plasma guns, gauss rifles, shotguns, and genre-staple bullet hoses? Well, you could take down hordes of zombies, aliens, lizard-men, and bugs in the Quest mode. After all, there are sixty levels to plow through with three different difficulty settings; two of which are locked behind the completion of the one before it. You could also try your chops at one of the five Survival Modes. Those modes being Survival, Rush, Weapon Picker, Nukefism, Blitz – all of which offer different game types to pray-and-spray. My personal favorite is Nukefism. Who couldn’t like a game with a name like that? It is a mode with no ammo, just random power-up that appear and drop from the enemies you kill. Crazy, but fun!
Since all of this information isn’t new, how does Crimsonland find its home on the Nintendo Switch?
This one is a little bit more difficult to answer. While Crimsonland certainly fits within Nintendo’s push to assert their place at the indie games table, it struggles from the limitations of the game’s controller layout and lack of options. Since the formula for the game requires two thumbsticks, you would need four full sets of Joycons or a combination of Joycons and Pro Controllers to play with four people on the same screen. I realize that this is the same for other platforms as well – it is the burden of any couch co-op game. While it would have been an incredible challenge to reorient the controls to function on a single Joycon, it would have been interesting to see if this was possible. Perhaps, this issue lies not in the game itself, but the console’s own limitations. With that in mind, I’m not sure if the Switch was the right home for Crimsonland, outside of the Nindies push and the Switch’s portability.
With all of that being said, Crimsonland is a very bloody but fun trip back an era of over-the-top, top-down, arcade shoot’em up game. It doesn’t take itself too seriously but plays off of sci-fi troupes the same way that Let Them Come does – to the point of mimicking the original DOOM launch screen.
If you’re in the mood for a twin stick shooter that is easy to pick up but provides hours of challenging gameplay, Crimsonland is worth a shot. While it doesn’t quite make me want to break my jeans that I could smuggle a couple of two-liters in, Crimsonland certain means business up front with the promise of a party in the back.
Note: Our copy was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch with a code provided by PR.
COMPARE TO: Helldivers, New Machina
OVERALL SCORE: 6
- Easy to pick up, but challenging to master
- Over-the-top humor
- Tons of guns and perks
- No options to reorient controls
- Can get repetitive
- Feels out of place on the Switch