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Crimsonland review: A bloody twin-stick shooter for Windows Phone, Windows 8, and Steam

10tons is best known for its casual games like Sparkle 2, King Oddball and Tennis in the Face. But way back in 2003, the developer also made a fairly hardcore twin-stick shooter called Crimsonland and later remastered it in 2014. Last week, Crimsonland finally arrived on Windows Phone and Windows 8.

With dozens of weapons and perks to unlock, several game modes and tons of blood to spill, Crimsonland is an exciting release for genre fans. Read on for our full review of the Windows Phone, Windows 8, and Steam versions of Crimsonland – complete with video review.

Quest mode

10tons has never been known for its elaborate stories or premises. Instead, the developer likes to pair simple and addictive gameplay with simple but attractive art design. As such, Crimsonland has absolutely no story to speak of. You play as a soldier guy who has to shoot lots and lots of zombies, monsters, and aliens. Works for me!

The primary game type is Quest Mode. It contains a total of six level sets, each with ten quick levels to blast through. Every tenth level is an ultra-challenging boss level. Should you beat all sixty levels, you'll unlock a new difficulty. Run through that harder difficulty, and you'll unlock an even tougher difficulty setting.

The goal in each level is simple: kill everything. The more things you eliminate, the more blood coats the ground. A meter at the top of the screen indicates how many enemies remain. Once the meter fills and the last monster dies, you can move on to the next level. You'll also unlock a weapon, perk, or game mode.

Every level also has an optional side goal – to beat it with full life. Should you come through unscathed, you'll receive a star for that level. This side goal can be challenging when scores of enemies swarm your player, often necessitating a retry or two. Thankfully, once you unlock healing perks, you can sometimes take damage, heal yourself, and still earn the star.

Earning all ten stars in a level set doesn't seem to unlock anything, which is a shame. I enjoyed trying for the stars anyway, with the exception of level 2-10. I tried to get its star for at least 45 minutes but always took a hit. The balance of the enemies is off in that level – they always speed up and overwhelm you, making a clean escape seemingly impossible.

Weapons and perks

60 levels of simple twin-stick arena shooting might not be too exciting, if not for Crimsonland's excellent unlocking system. Nearly every new level you beat unlocks a new weapon or perk, so you're constantly earning new stuff. These will then appear in subsequent levels, adding variety to your quests.

By default, you start with a wimpy pistol. But the first enemy you kill in a level will drop a random weapon from the pool of guns you've unlocked. As more enemies die, they'll leave behind more guns and/or power-ups.

With 30 different guns to collect, everyone's bound to find a favorite. Among the various categories are shotguns, rifles, rocket launchers, railguns, and flame throwers. Each comes in several varieties, all with different damage, speed, and reloading stats. You want something with spread shots, but even a railgun can be lethal on many levels.

My one complaint with the weapon system (other than the weapon chart being disorganized) is the difficulty in identifying the guns that bad guys drop. 30 guns is a lot, and it's just too hard to remember some of their identities at a glance. On Windows 8 and Steam, the name of a gun appears briefly as you near it, but it disappears right away and rarely gives the player time to read it. I'd rather the name just show up until the player picks the weapon up or moves away from it.

Near the completion meter at the top of the screen, you'll also see an XP meter. Experience earned from killing creatures eventually leads to leveling up. Every time you level up, you get to select one perk from a random set of four that you have unlocked.

Perks are bonuses and abilities that (generally) make the game easier, much like the abilities you'd unlock in an RPG. They can affect your damage, health, firing and reloading rate, and much, much more. With 55 different perks to get (though some are enhanced versions of earlier perks), players can really customize their soldier and his abilities. I highly recommend perks that make bonus items last longer and appear more frequently, as power-ups can increase your chances of survival.

By default, you can't use perks in Quest mode. The game does allow players to enable Quest mode perks in settings though, which I highly suggest you do. Otherwise, you'll only get to use them in the much shorter Survival modes.

Survival modes

Initially, only the basic survival mode is unlocked. But as you progress through Quest mode, you'll unlock four additional game types.

  • Survival: Try to last as long as you can while battling ever-stronger waves of enemies. Guns and perks unlocked in Quest mode will appear in Survival.
  • Rush: Battle hordes of enemies with nothing but an underpowered assault rifle. At least it doesn't have to reload!
  • Weapon Picker: All guns have limited ammunition, so you have to dash for a new weapon as soon as your old one runs out.
  • Nukefism: With no weapons at all, you'll have to rely on power-ups to keep the monsters at bay.
  • Blitz: A faster version of Survival mode

Of the survival modes, only Survival and Blitz have any real staying power. The difficulty ramps up too quickly, though. By the time you reach level 6 or 7, the enemies are all but guaranteed to overwhelm you. I'd prefer more of a chance to build up perks and really customize the experience. Survival mode should last for 30-60 minutes instead of becoming impossible after 15 or so.

Comparing Windows Phone, Windows 8, and Steam

The Windows Phone and Windows 8 versions of Crimsonland both feature great touch controls. You can choose whether the virtual joysticks are visible or invisible, and also set whether they stay in a fixed position or appear wherever you touch the screen. They respond excellently and put the touch controls of Halo: Spartan Assault to shame.

Still, touch controls can never be quite as responsive as physical ones. Luckily, Windows 8 and Steam support Xbox controllers. You can even choose whether or not a fire button is required to shoot. If you have the option, controller is the way to go.

Windows 8 and Steam also support local co-op play! I don't have the controllers to test it, but I believe Windows 8 maxes out at two players and Steam allows for four players. Given that Crimsonland can get pretty tough in later stages, the ability to call in a friend or two is most welcome.

A goof-up on 10tons' part: the Windows Phone version has local co-op leaderboards even though it doesn't support co-op. They should really patch that out.

Speaking of leaderboards, only the Steam version has actual online leaderboards (as do the Xbox One and PlayStation versions). Windows Phone and Windows 8 simply offer local scoreboards. Online leaderboards add so much to score-based games like Crimsonland, so it's a shame some versions of Crimsonland don't have them.

The Steam version also offers Steam Achievements. Check out our multiplatform Achievement Guide for tips on how to get them all!

A bloody good time

Crimsonland is a surprisingly good twin-stick shooter. It doesn't look like much, and the backgrounds definitely need more variety. But the constant cycle of unlocking of new stuff in Quest mode and then trying it out in future stages proves highly enjoyable. Trying for high scores in Survival can be fun too, though it could've been even better.

This game marks the first 10tons title on Windows Phone and Windows 8 to support universal purchases. Buy one version and you get the other automatically - neither version supports cloud saves though. The downside is Crimsonland costs $10, which is a lot if you only want the phone game. On the other hand, Crimsonland costs $13.99 on Steam and PlayStation. The Windows versions are actually the best deal.

Which version should you get? If you have a PlayStation 4 or Vita, I'd probably grab them for Trophy support. As far as Windows goes, the Steam version does have online leaderboards and Steam Achievements. The Windows Phone and 8 games have in-game Achievements but nobody else can see them. Computer players should grab the Steam game, but tablet and phone players will still have a fine time with the mobile Windows versions.

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

104 Comments
  • Looking very bloody......and also costly
  • Lol... Very costly indeed
  • It's awesome, I have it on my vita, but it's too expensive for mobile indeed
  • Looks like platform diversity is a good ticket towards success. 
  • 10$ for a top down shooter.sorry
  • Agreed, wouldn't download even for free
  • What great insight that provides.
  • Sorry Paul, but we have the right to comment. Doesn't have to be an insight. You may not agree, but that doesn't mean we spend $10 on this. Compare this to Halo:SA, which is a much bigger, better game for half the price.
  • Paul os referring to the silly comment " I would not download it even for free". And he is right to mock it. 10 $ includes availability for WP and windows 8 and is cheaper than the same game on steam and on playstation, not to mention that it comes with a trial.
  • People can be critical if they want. Look at what he said though, and tell me how productive that was.
  • You guys are missing out on the fun then because the game is well worth the price, been playing it non-stop on my WP for the past few days :D
  • maybe they all played it for free 10 years ago on the PC
  • Non stop heh. Sure. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Same here, love it
  • I'm sure it will go on sale. Everything does.
  • It's already been on sale on Steam - according to steamprices it got down to $5.59
  • Overpriced 7/8 but really I'm poor. :(
  • That's why you should sell weed
  • LOL! xD
  • Or marry Bill Gates.
  • Everyday
  • I have lots of weeds in my garden... Time to dig them up and start raking in the cash!! :P
  • Or a job?
  • Bing rewards atw
  • 10...10 tons....impossible for a student like me.too much weight on my purse.
  • Impossible. As soon as you think it it becomes true. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • That's deep
  • Too much for phones. They don't support coop mode and it asks for 9.99$. Sorry but I'll wait and see, 10 tons
  • How would you suggest they make the WP version support local co-op? Most WP games don't support controllers, and WP can only support 1 MOGA controller at once anyway.
  • It could be local wifi ad-hoc connection or UDP multicast networking. This game does not need to rank players. It's just fun kill all that running-on-the-screen stuff with friends. Imgaing your-self with two or more people in a room playing the same level. That would be huge.
  • That definitely would be really cool. I think wireless multiplayer is beyond the scope of what 10tons is prepared to do - none of their PC or console games have anything more than local multiplayer. I definitely would like to see real multiplayer on WP, plus online leaderboards as mentioned in the review. But they really are a small dev and their WP/W8 support is great, so I can't hold that against them too much.
  • Someone trying to make a quick buck. Can't blame them, these are tough times for everyone.
  • Such comment, very stupidity, much wow :/
  • "Very stupidity", indeed. Just like your grammar.
  • Meh, English is not my native language, and if you understand what I mean, then my English is enough.
  • Alright, whatever you say mate. If I offended you in anyway, I sincerely apologize. Be well, and have a nice day :)
  • Someone hasn't heard of doge...
  • Doge.
  • It's so weird how companies want to profit from their work and for their employees to be able to feed themselves and pay their bills and things, isn't it? ;-)
  • Highest paid app
  • Your knowledge of the Windows/phone store is laugh-able. There are tons of higher paid apps/games which are not even worth the price (unlike this one)
  • Really, Minecraft is least second app which is higesht cost. Find me app with highest cost except Minecraft and this new game. Highest I am saying.
  • Kunalya...The highest paid game, I believe, is Final Fantasy III ($15.99 USD)
  • You are right my friend, final fanatsy is ₹820.
  • Disney Mickey mouse was 14.99, some rpg is 9.99, and a few others are all over 10 bucks.
  • I am not getting any app you have mentioned. So try to think about it and comment. What happened usama. No answer my friend
  • Lol, you really want to hear any more expensive games/apps? I think people above me have mentioned enough already to prove my point :P
  • Yes , I agree with residing user. Though you tell me if u have any knowledge about it. Even you cant mention the name of a game, just doing approximately this game would be highest paid app. Bullshit
  • Ummm....wut?
  • Well ... Spectral Souls is USD 12 on WP8 and 15 on Windows 8. And they are not even universal app. So this is not the most expensive app on the store. :p
  • Guys come on, support the developer. This is a top down doom like shooter, its great on steam
  • Exactly, the first thing that came to my mind was Doom as well :) This game is epic! :D
  • Is it me, or does anyone realize the environment cover is DAMN NEAR exactly like the original Doom cover?
  • Yeah, definitely "heavily inspired"
  • Glad I'm not the only one who saw that!
  • I pay $10 for AAA titles on Steam... This is an indie title that needs to be cheaper. It looks like it has been discounted to $5.59 on Steam in the past, so it might be worth picking it up there when it goes on sale again, or if it goes on sale on W8/WP
  • You get 2 copies of the game. One on Windows and one on Phone for only $10. That's $5 each. Cheaper than Steam price you mentioned.
  • Bought the game the day it launched on WP. No regrets, worth the price! Currently on Mission 4.4 :) The variety of weapons, enemies, perks and game modes is amazing, making it well worth the price :)
  • I'm technically not replying to your comment. Just asking to people why are your comment got a downvote. I can understand downvoting rude comments or troll comments or any comments with negative/foul language and intention. But this? IMO, to expensive or not is depend on personal finance condition. Worth it or not is depend on personal taste. So why downvoting?
  • No idea, was wondering the same :/ Here, have an upvote for thinking the same.
    (Well, sorry if I offended the person who downvoted me for whatever reason :p )
  • Could be a bot. Reddit uses bots to balance scores, including upvotes and downvotes. This could be something similar.
  • Well... If it for balancing purpose, at the time my question was posted (my comment above), there are no upvote. Not in the original comment I replied to, nor throughout entire comments in this article.
    Even though I don't get the logic for the need of balancer bots you mentioned. If they want a forced balanced upvotes/downvotes, why give the voting features in the first place? Unless these bots are run by third party, then they have serious issue on their voting system.
  • Found it. its called "vote fuzzing" and it counters spam. (anti-spam) this is for reddit though. I'm not sure if its applicible here, but it sure is present on reddit. It acts as a mitigator. or, sombody accidently hit downvote rather than upvote. http://www.reddit.com/r/WTF/comments/eaqnf/pardon_me_but_5000_downvotes_wtf_is_worldnews_for/c16omup?context=3
  • Ah... I see. I forgot that reddit is more like a threaded forum than article-comment form where moderating each and every posts are exhausting.
    I don't think this is worth the hassle to implement on news site like this though.
    So, for now, it's either accidental click, downvote prank, or pure hate toward high priced app. :3
  • I thought so too. WC is big, but its comment section size is dwarfed by the usual comment section on reddit. Still, you gave me an excuse to look into voting balance systems, which I have been meaning to look at for a while.
  • Awesome shooter, already own it on PC but will buy this one for on the go! Love 10ton games!
  • No Live, no buy.
  • I don't know why you comment on mobile game articles at all. :/
  • I think he means "No XBox Live, no buy" ... Which is still in the mobile game scope. Although I don't get it with these sentiments. A good game will be a good game, with XBL or not.
    I could be wrong though... :3
  • Feel free to make a comment like that disagreeing, but be ready for it to be ridiculed. Not talking about the writers, but the rest of us.
  • More like "oh ffs, the same comment again on every. single. article." What's the point in saying "no xbl, no buy" all the time? XBL integration is too damn expensive, they need to take it up with MS and not "punish" the developer by refusing to buy a game because it doesn't have it.
  • *Facepalm* Not the same thing again :/ Would've been more fun-ner with live but doesn't mean that it isn't worth the price now. :/
  • Doesn't seem to be a universal app unfortunately, might have been worth it to get it on Windows 8 and Phone in a single purchase
  • Didn't read the review, didja? ;)
  • Haha Well...I'll admit I did only skim read it :-p
    I just checked the link to the WP Store though and didn't see the icon that indicates an app/game is univeral. Time to go back and re-read to see where I missed it lol Downloading the trial on phone now to see what it's like.
  • Lmao, read again :D
  • When I open it on Windows Store, it has universal app icon and stated that if I bought it, I can start downloading at any compatible WP devices. So I guess it is universal app.
  • 10€? Sorry nope :)
  • Thanks for the video. Will get this game soon..
  • Too expensive, but still it's a damn good shooter and it's nice to see they support Windows Phone. Appreciated! 
  • Seems interesting, but no thanks
  • Id not have bought but works for rt tablet too which is nicer given the screen size. Great game.
  • Support cloud save and I have another look at it.
  • This cover looks similar to doom. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Too expensive €4,99 should be the limit
  • Very high price for sooooo old game
  • Its' actually based on the remastered game that came out in 2014.
  • Not even online leaderboards for such an expensive game is not acceptable.
    No Xbox as well, very disappointed.
  • It's alwasy very good to see new games coming to Windows Phone, our favorite platform. And this one looks really cool. I'm going to give it a "Try" before paying the full version, lol. I also have been working on a game, it's free and it is available for Windows Phone since yesterday, will be coming to Windows 8 too very soon. It works on 512 ram (like lumia 520) devices. Please, share with me all your feedback. (inter.illusion@gmail.com)
    Here you can watch a trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8Qhl4KT_8A
    and donwload it from the store: http://www.windowsphone.com/en-us/store/app/brush-master/b43da174-36a9-450e-aa7a-f2d5515ce5cc  
  • looks cool, im gonna try with my bro, thx!
  • 13$ For This whahahahahhaah Better buy CS:GO Then this shit XD 
  • Read review then try again please
  • it looks like the jacked the cover art from DOOM I think
  • or duke nukem. I forget which one
  • Yeah, DOOM... "heavily inspired" by it :)
  • I'll stick on my Zomb1es on teh phone(game app) for now lol
  • Being an universal game makes this much more tempting to pick up on WP/W8. Nice review
  • This seems like a deeper, cleaner version of Gun Bros. (not to say it's an original game or anything, just the twin-stick shooter I bothered to play on my 920). $10 is pretty hard to justify, even with cross-buy, when Halo: Spartan Assult is a $7 cross-buy title with better brand racognition and Gun Bros. was free, even if it had faults. Xbox LIVE support would probably have many accepting of the price, but too many people are jaded towards non-Xbox games on the platform. Crimsonland sure does seem to have quite a lot of content, though. The gameplay itself seems rather shallow, but it's pretty cool how they offered up so many variants of the game to attempt to give it some level of freshness after a typical mobile game has lost its shine. I likely wouldn't buy this, even at a lower price point (not a big twin-stick person and really not much of a mobile game), but the $10 tag is just so high I can't think it's goign to register to many. $10 is a lot for a mobile experience, and we really only see prices that high reserved for big-name ports of older titles like Final Fantasy and GTA. $5 would be a more-sensible price, in my opinion.
  • As far as costing more than Halo, Microsoft can afford to sell the phone or tablet game as a loss leader and doesn't have to share its profits with the platform holder since they own the platform. Halo is also guaranteed a large number of sales based on name recognition. Being a smaller studio, 10tons needs more per sale in order to make their money back, especially when 1/3 of the sale price goes to Microsoft. I think they might have been willing to sell it $5, but not as a universal app.
  • I have determined, after a few days with the trial version, that this game is so worth the money. What system I get it on is the next step. I'm leaning towards Steam because I know some friends who play TF2 have it and that would be awesome. The price is more than I'd usually pay for a mobile game, hence why I'll keep the trial and wait till it goes on sale (or free) on wp. But a tenner on Steam is a breeze, no problem at all. I just know I'm gonna add it to my wishlist, purchase it, then tomorrow see it on sale for like 5 quid.  I'd like to know how Paul is lasting 15 minutes in survival mode though! My longest run is 7 minutes; I scored 23k. Rocket Launcher aoe ftfw!!! We should make like a strategy guide for this game as well because I really think it's a gem :)
  • Glad you agree on the game's quality! Yeah, Steam is the way to go thanks to leaderboard support. Survival mode does get easier as you unlock more stuff. But I made 15 minutes up out of thin air, so I might be dying before that.
  • I'm tired of the blood, guts, violent, foul mouth, demonic, and politically incorrect video games.
  • A strange comment. If you don't like violent games, play different ones. Easy!
  • I might have to check this out.