Sometimes all you need is a pair of analog sticks, a rack of weapons and enough cannon fodder to sate even the deepest of virtual blood lusts. That’s the mantra Finnish developer 10tons Entertainment was banking on when it released its monster-eviscerating top-down shooter back in 2003 – but does that hold up in a 2015 re-release?
Twelve years ago, the original PC version of Crimsonland was a blast. The basic premise is this: you start in the middle of a barren map while increasing numbers of zombies, aliens, lizards and spiders attempt to murder you. Weapons drop at random, as do powerups that range from predictable health pickups to nuclear bombs that wipe out most of the map. Kill everything to level up or progress to the next stage. That’s it. Job done.
The basic tenets of that gameplay – shoot, evade, shoot some more – are alive and well in this remaster, but they end up being both a blessing and a curse. The original code was designed for a keyboard and mouse, but the game transitions perfectly to the twitchy controls of a twin-stick shooter. The 360 degree axis of your plucky, death dealing marine is perfect on pad and that extra sense of control makes all the difference when Crimsonland’s action starts to get hectic.
And things will get hectic, fast. Enemies pour in from every corner, while later waves and missions have dens that spawn the blighters endlessly if you don’t plug them for good. As a single-player experience, you’d soon get overrun as the screen filled with waves of enemies – but with the addition of four-player local co-op, Crimsonland transforms into a perfect fit for couch play. It’s incredibly easy to lose track of your top-down hero amid all the chaos, but the addition of other human players adds a new layer of tactics as you draw hordes of enemies away from friends or important power-ups.