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Crimsonland Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . No matter whether it's on the PS4 or PS Vita, Crimsonland is a deeply disappointing dual-stick shooter. The levels rarely change and the weapon drops can lead to a lot of frustrating deaths. The few good ideas are overshadowed by too many questionable design decisions to count. The PS Vita deserves a better dual-stick shooter. Rating: 40%
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  • Review Score:

  • C-
Despite my undying love for the overhead dual-stick shooter, I was left cold by Crimsonland when I reviewed it on the PlayStation 4. It had good ideas and a nice roster of weapons, but I was disappointed by the never-changing stage designs and poor handling. Do I like Crimsonland more as a portable PS Vita game? The answer is a resounding ... maybe?

If the name sounds familiar, it's probably because you played the 2003 original. Released on the PC long before Geometry Wars made dual-stick shooters hip (and long after Robotron 2048 and Smash TV established the sub-genre), Crimsonland had players using the mouse and keyboard to run around a giant screen killing zombies, spiders and other monsters. And now that this type of game is all the rage, this fast-paced action game finally got the makeover it deserved, along with much-needed dual analog stick support.

Crimsonland (PS Vita)Click For the Full Picture Archive

For an overhead shoot-em-up, Crimsonland seems to have a thing for Doom. Not only is the title screen a direct homage to the influential first-person shooter, but the menus and level names are intended to evoke a Doom vibe. Unfortunately, the similarities end there. Instead of navigating a series of mazes, every level takes place in a giant, wide-open environment with no cover or objects on the playing field.

In fact, you'll quickly discover that all sixty stages (spread out across six different areas) play out exactly the same. Players are tasked with killing every last monster, mutating spider, zombie and lizardman found in the stage, including the ones that seem to warp in out of nowhere. There's a gauge at the top that displays your progress, though the answer to the question is always to kill more bad guys. And it wouldn't be a video game if the stages didn't become increasingly difficult, providing enemies that take more shots, split apart and explode.

The good news is that our player has dozens of weapons to aid them on their journey. From missile launchers to flame throwers to pistols to automatic rifles, Crimsonland has pretty much every type of gun you can imagine. Instead of automatically firing your piece like in Geometry Wars, this PS Vita shooter requires players to pull the trigger. You'll also need to play close attention to how many bullets you have. While each weapon can be reloaded an infinite amount of time, the process of refilling the bullets can be time consuming and quickly lead to your death.

Crimsonland (PS Vita)Click For the Full Picture Archive

For what it's worth, the PS Vita version handles better than its PlayStation 4 counterpart. This port allows players to not only use the two analog sticks, but also aim using the touchscreen. Even though it isn't good for every type of gun, I ultimately liked switching between the two. It helps to fix one of the problems I had with the console release.

Although I normally enjoy this style of action game, I was left cold by many of Crimsonland's rougher edges. It all starts with the boring level designs, which is little more than a wide-open plot of land. The grass color and landscape changes every ten stages, but don't get too excited, because this doesn't impact gameplay in any way. Because every level is essentially the same, I quickly grew tired fighting off hordes of monsters. Sure, the enemies got harder and it became impossible to outrun the many creatures on screen, but it never felt like there was any forward momentum or a reason to keep going. You've largely seen all Crimsonland has to offer within the first few stages.

The wide variety of weapons is nice, but I hated the random drops and how many of the guns handled. It doesn't help that you start with the slowest handgun I've seen in a dual-stick shooter. Then again, that perfectly matches the lethargic pace of our hero. The combination of slow running and weak weapons leads to a lot of frustrating deaths. And with levels that are indistinguishable from each other, I had a hard time staying interested.

Crimsonland (PS Vita)Click For the Full Picture Archive

It doesn't seem like it would take much to make these stages unique and interesting. Something as simple as adding a lake would go a long way. Adding buildings and other constructions would also make it easier to tell the difference between stages and add much-needed depth to the firefights. Perhaps trees and rocks could litter certain battlefields. It's these simple touches that are completely missing from Crimsonland, and that's why each area feels so empty.

Beyond the single-player story, Crimsonland also features a number of survival modes. The barebones mode has players using perks to improve their chances against endless waves of baddies. Rush mode wonders if you can survive an alien attack with an assault rifle (the answer is no, you cannot). You can also go to the extremes, with one mode full of nuclear bombs and another with extremely limited ammo. These survival modes are the highlight of the game, and the only thing keeping Crimsonland from a much lower score.

Crimsonland (PS Vita)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Perhaps it's because of the barren stages, but I found the visuals to be bland and uninteresting. The characters are small and lack detail, and the only defining characteristic of the presentation seems to be the puddles of blood that remain on the battlefield long after the enemy has died. The music is inoffensive and gets the job done, though I wouldn't seek out the official soundtrack.

Sadly, multiplayer support has been stripped out of this PS Vita port. That was one of the few things I really liked about the PS4 version, and it's a shame to see it go. Reduced to a solo mission, Crimsonland never develops into something worth recommending. The level designs are boring and the presentation leaves a lot to be desired. The PS Vita deserves a better dual-stick shooter.
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