If Smash TV and Doom had a love child, it would be Crimsonland. There’s leaderboards, frantic top-down arcade action, loads of guns, and more blood on display than the legendary lawnmower scene in Peter Jackson’s horror classic Dead Alive. It’s such a far departure from developer 10tons’ previous Xbox One release, the colorful marble puzzler Sparkle Unleashed, but it’s a damn fine twin-stick co-op shooter with just the right dose of RPG elements that kept me coming back for more.
Chronologically speaking, it’s actually the developer’s first game ever. Sort of. Originally released for PC in 2003, Crimsonland was a cult classic that graced many a gaming magazine and their accompanied promo discs. It proved to be quite popular and was recently given the remaster treatment so you and your friends could paint the floor red on your console of choice.
“Imagine your friends running around like headless chickens, screaming as if they’ve been stung by every bee in existence…”
Crimsonland is clearly inspired by other gory shooters (even the above image and soundtrack is an homage to Doom) and is at its best when joined up with friends on the couch, collectively mowing down hordes of baddies through its variety of game modes. Story is non-existent, controls are minimalist, but playing through the Quests mode alone or with some pals unlocks a satisfying plethora of new weapons (even terrible trollish ones!) and perks that can be used in the game’s other modes. It’s a well paced drip-feed reward system that respects your personal time by unlocking new content on a regular basis, rather than hiding the fun elements behind ridiculous grinds or soul crushing difficulty requirements.
Quests mode consist of a handful of stages, each with 10 waves of enemies to shred through. Killing stuff rewards XP and leveling up allows the player to choose from a randomized list of perks, like firing off uranium filled bullets (it’s like a deadly Twinkie), taking less damage in exchange for a smaller health pool, or a Death Clock that provides 30 seconds of scoring multipliers at the cost of your life. My favorite pairing was Lucky, which randomly spawned power-ups near my location, and Telekinesis, which pulled them to me automatically. Hell, you can even make a deal with the devil and unlock three additional perks if you’re willing to play with 99% of your health pool missing! There’s over 50 (!!!) to unlock over the course of Quest mode, and since all of them carry over to Survival it’s probably best to muscle through the campaign with your friends before stomping your boots on its blood-caked floor. It’ll only take a couple of hours.
Survival is where you’ll spend most of your time, and there’s a decent variety in the given game modes that help dull the sting of repetition. I always find myself coming back to the standard “endless” mode, as I tend to have the most fun when 30 different weapons are at my disposal. One Survival mode offers nothing more than a simple assault rifle (good luck, by the way), while another severely limits your ammunition capacity (good luck again). Another favorite of mine is Nukefism, where you don’t even get a weapon at all. Instead you’re swarmed by endless waves of baddies while at the mercy of random power-up spawns. Imagine your friends running around like headless chickens, screaming as if they’ve been stung by every bee in existence, waiting for that one nuke or chain lightning orb to spawn just to get a little breathing room. It’s pretty intense.
Crimsonland is easy enough to pick up and play, making it an ideal party game to whip out when your friends show up. I assume it’s doable while drinking copious amounts of liquor as well, so if you’re looking for something a little more mature than Mario Party or TowerFall for your next get-together, you’ve come to the right place. The more the merrier as well, since the game increases the monster count as more players join in (without a noticeable dip in framerate, might I add).
“The weapons are fun, the perks are interesting, and it’s satisfying to play something that blends my love of arcade shooters and all things gory.”
This is not a pretty game by any means. I couldn’t tell what my character was even supposed to look like, environments are unremarkable and drab, and the game uses the same handful of enemy models over and over again, but it never lowered the fun factor. There’s the occasional surprise enemy, like spiders that duplicate upon death, or larger zombies that spawn additional units behind them, but it’s still far from attractive. Even still, there’s something awesome about a blood soaked floor littered with bodies while hundreds of spiders, aliens, lizardmen, and zombies get lit up by colorful blasts of fire, electricity, or ion rifles. Having four players on screen is likely more chaotic than one could handle, and we even had trouble keeping track with just the two of us. That’s in no way a bad thing, though. Chaos is good. Chaos is fun. Party games are all about bringing people together, laughing, and having a good time, and Crimsonland lets you do that while bathing in a sea of entrails.
I’m still having a good time with Crimsonland and I can see myself popping in again if I have some time to kill between classes, or friends happen to show up unannounced with a case of beer. The weapons are fun, the perks are interesting, and it’s satisfying to play something that blends my love of arcade shooters and all things gory. It’s another indie release on Xbox that forgoes the modern convenience of online co-op, which is unfortunate, but I still had a blast (pun intended) shredding through waves of monsters either alone or with a friend. To those of you riding solo though, your mileage may vary, but it’s easily some of the most fun you can have on your couch.
Recommended for fans of: Smash TV, Loaded, Re-Loaded, twin-stick shooters, gore.
*This review is based purely on the newly released Xbox One version of Crimsonland, which is also available on PS4, Steam, and iOS.