What if Doom was a top down twinstick shooter? You don’t actually need to imagine that, it’s a question that was answered in 2003. And that answer was given a fresh coat of paint and resold to the masses. Anyway, Crimsonland.
Let’s begin with the easiest similarity to the original Doom: barely any plot. You kill stuff. You’re a soldier, somewhere, and ya kill stuff. They want to kill you. Grab a gun and get to it. It’s nonexistent and the game doesn’t even care because story is the least important thing about this game. What matters most is killing stuff.
Some historical precedent is needed before we continue; Crimsonland is a game from 2003, remastered for 2017. This means that while it bears a striking resemblance to another previously reviewed game, JYDGE, Crimsonland has it beat by a decade. So look at this in essence as JYDGE 0.5. With that said…
Crimsonland is a top down twinstick shooter where the aim of the game is eliminating hordes of enemies before they eliminate you, with up to four players able to mow down the legions of enemies. The way this happens across each stage is simple. When you begin, you start with a weak pistol. Killing the first enemy guarantees a weapon drop for something stronger (usually the next weapon you previously unlocked upon finishing a level), and later enemies may also drop random weapons as well. This happens more as you progress through the campaign and unlock these weapons. Not one weapon at your disposal is useless, and all of them have a particular niche with select strategies, which leads us into the next point: perks.
Perks fill the same role the chip modifiers did in JYDGE, in that they the experience of playing through a level. Killing enemies fills an experience bar in each stage, and when it fills, you level up and are rewarded with one perk per level-up, which can be such things as increased damage, reload speed, firing speed, or perhaps slower enemy movement or more frequent powerup drops. The catch, though, is that your options are randomized every time, so no two playthroughs of the same level will be identical. This adds some improvisation strategy into the mix, as you have to make do with what you’re offered and gain the next perk quickly.
Naturally, this results in a high amount of replayability, where the mid-level combinations can be endless, and with the dozens of perks and weapons available to you, this makes killing the hordes absolutely enjoyable. This doesn’t mean the game is mindless, however; you need to pay attention and think through your upgrades carefully lest the enemy hordes bring you down every single time. You’ll fail select levels purely on the basis of not knowing what to do when the hordes overwhelm you and will have to change up your strategy accordingly. For how straightforward it all is, the gameplay is quite varied.
Like the nonexistent plot, there’s little to say about the presentation. Imagine JYDGE with the original DOOM’s color palette. And arguably more gallons of blood. The backgrounds could have been a bit stronger, but at the same time, it’s a very old game, so it gets somewhat of a pass in this area. The music is pretty weak, but that’s mostly owing to the sound mixing. I failed to realize it was there most of the time beyond the level end jingles. Though, after playing around with the volume settings, you can get the music to stand out more, and it’s exactly what you’d expect from a DOOM-ish game. So there’s that, in hindsight.
Crimsonland is not a bad game; it’s enjoyable, but at the same time it’s biggest downfall is being hard to recommend over JYDGE, which boasts incredible replayability and a more inviting aesthetic with very similar mechanics. Crimsonland’s most notable draw over JYDGE is the four player co-op play, which gives it a particular niche as an arcade-y shoot-em-up. Crimsonland boasts enough campaign levels and modes to keep you entertained for a good while if running solo, at the very least. If you can afford to get both, play Crimsonland first, as it’s the spiritual predecessor to JYDGE, but if you can only get one, JYDGE is far, far more worth the investment.