Re-imagining classic games has become common practice among independent and big-name developers alike over the last few years. Usually this will involve reviving long-past titles that were big hits when they were first released, and updating them to modern standards. Crimsonland, however, was only released eleven years ago and the development team handling the re-make is the same team who created the original.
Considering the title wasn’t exactly a smash hit when it first came out, one would assume the developers had pretty free reign to re-design the game any way they wish – but first impressions of Crimsonland suggest that very little has changed since 2003. However, while it looks pretty similar to the original and the gameplay hasn’t changed drastically, 10Tons have made a few alterations to make it more accessible to a modern audience.
There is no storyline to speak of: the game is split into six worlds, each consisting of ten smaller missions and culminating in a boss battle – but there is no plot other than that you play a lone survivor taking on wave after wave of aliens. Crimsonland is a thoroughly old-school affair in almost every regard. It’s a top-down 2D shooter, where you control the movement of the character with the keyboard or one stick (if using a game pad) and aim his crosshairs with the mouse or second stick. These are very easy controls to pick up, but can cause issues on laptops where touch pads and keystrokes clash, which results in stuttering movement.
You always start off with a basic pistol, but pick up new weapons and power-ups throughout the stages, which are dropped by defeated enemies. You can only hold one weapon at a time, so deciding which will be most useful for the current situation is often a tricky and very important decision – pick a gun that reloads too slowly or has too little power and you can easily find yourself overwhelmed by hundreds of enemies. The same can be said for power-ups, which might freeze all enemies on-screen, or provide an increased rate of fire for several moments.
These items all only appear on-screen for a few seconds, so you really have to decide quickly if you want to grab one or not before they disappear. This is particularly tricky when surrounded by enemies and a power-up is over the other side of the screen – do you sacrifice a bit of health to grab the item, or try your best without it? The use of weapons and power-ups is a tactical decision as much as a defensive move, and this creates an interesting dynamic in what is otherwise a fairly simple shooter.
None of the levels are very long, and you could breeze through a world in a matter of minutes once you have become accustomed to the controls. Of course, there are different difficulty levels to try out, which are only unlocked once the previous difficulty has been completed. There is little variety from one stage to the next and the entire game consists of pretty much he same action over and over again, and very similar enemies to kill.
The bulk of the game is made up of Quest mode, but as you progress you unlock five different Survival modes, each of which involve different ways of fighting the never-ending horde in order to top the online leaderboards. Some put emphasis on speed, others on power-ups, but they all feel pretty similar after a few waves. The sad fact is that the gameplay is very repetitive and there is little that differs from one level to the next, or from one game mode to another, to keep your enthusiasm high for long.
There is an option for local four-player co-operative play to spice things up, and this is a welcome addition. Few PC games offer such modes, but in Crimsonland you can drop-in and drop-out with ease – assuming you have three extra control pads. This is actually one of the few updates for this game compared to its original version. Obviously, graphics and sound have been tweaked, but visually the game is still pretty basic. The top-down sprites are simple and the backgrounds generic and fairly bland. There are some nice particle effects for power-ups, but otherwise this still looks like an eleven year old game.
VERDICT: Crimsonland may not be particularly flashy, but it does successfully deliver an old-school arcade shooting experience. It is often hard to tell how the company have re-worked this version, as it feels very dated in terms of presentation and ambition. The gameplay is exactly what you would expect from the genre: easy to pick up and play, but quickly repetitive and simplistic. For a bargain release or a Steam sale purchase, this could provide some happy reminiscing for retro gamers, but for its full price tag it just doesn’t deliver a very satisfying package.
AVERAGE. The epitome of a 50/50 game, this title will be unspectacular but inoffensive, charmless but amiable. We aren’t condemning a game by scoring it a 5, but we certainly aren’t championing it, either.
Review code provided by publisher.