Finnish developer 10tons has created tons of fine mobile games over the years, but recently they've broken into console gaming. First they released the fast-paced puzzle game Sparkle Unleashed on Xbox One, and now Xbox One gets a new-and-improved version of Crimsonland as well.
Crimsonland is a twin-stick shooter with local co-op and loads of weapons, perks, and modes to unlock. The Xbox One version boasts ten new levels, a new game mode, and the Achievements so many of us need to go on living. It might not be much to look at, but Crimsonland is one of the most fun indie games on Xbox One. Read our detailed review with video to learn more!
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. I prefer a bit of story, but oh well.
The primary game type is Quests Mode. It contains a total of seven Chapters, each with ten quick levels to blast through. The seventh chapter is exclusive to Xbox One. Every tenth level contains an ultra-challenging boss battle. Should you beat all seventy 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 of the stars in the game won't prove too challenging for genre fans, with the exception of levels involving the spider enemies that split up when hit (the first of these is 2-10).
The splitting-spiders are a total pain because they move faster than you and will quickly swarm you to death if you can't keep them under control. The player's movement speed really should be a bit faster. Only certain weapons like rockets stand a chance at killing the splitting-spiders off in time. With weapon spawns dictated by chance, it will take many retries to kill the spiders before they can hit you.
Weapons and perks
70 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 only complaint about the weapon system is that some weapons become useless in higher levels due to poor range, reload times, and other factors. When the first weapon you get in a level is crap, you basically have to retry the level and hope for something better. Allowing gamers to turn off individual weapons to prevent them from spawning would solve that problem nicely.
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.
Using Perks in Quests mode is an optional thing, but you'll definitely want to enable it. The game gets pretty tough, and you'll need all the help you can get!
Initially, only the basic survival mode is unlocked. But as you progress through Quests 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
- Waves: A new mode created for Xbox One that takes advantage of the seventh world's (annoying) new enemies. Large "waves" of enemies spawn in groups. You'll have to work quickly to keep each new group under control.
Of the survival modes, only Survival, Blitz, and Waves have any real staying power. The difficulty ramps up too quickly across the board, 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.
All game types in Crimsonland support local co-op for up to four players. You can play through the entire campaign with a friend or three and take on the Survival modes as a team. The Survival modes even have separate co-op leaderboards so as not to dilute solo players' accomplishments.
The good news about local co-op is that it makes the game significantly easier on most levels. Blasting crazed hordes of enemies with friends provides a chaotically good time. The bad news is that only the first player gets to earn Achievements and save file progress. Shame that more developers don't allow everyone to fully join in on the fun.
What happens when a bonus mode goes wrong? You get Gembine, Crimsonland's secret minigame. To access it, view the Credits from the Extras menu. Then input the following code on your controller: Y, Y, Y, X, X, X, and Y. You'll be whisked to Gembine.
Gembine is a clone of 2048, the numeric puzzle game that inspired Threes. If you've ever played either of those games, you can probably guess that Gembine is not much fun at all. Unfortunately, players will have to achieve a high score over 53,717 points in order to unlock the final perk in Crimsonland – and an Achievement. That took me two hours of trying, and I did not enjoy it.
Throwing a bonus game into a larger game should be an act of kindness – a gift to the players. Not here. The score requirement for Gembine is really high. None of your skills from Crimsonland apply to 2048 or vice versa, so 10tons has no reason to believe that Crimsonland players would be good Gembine players.
If you want to unlock everything, you'll have to trudge through it. That's not good game design. If the developers had to tie the last perk to a minigame, they should have cloned something more approachable like Bejeweled instead of a game that few console gamers are likely to be like or be good at.
Crimsonland offers 22 Achievements worth a total of 1,000 Gamerscore. The Achievements are the same as the PlayStation versions' Trophies, except Xbox One has an extra one dedicated to the new seventh chapter of Quests mode.
Some of these Achievements such as beating every level without getting hit and beating the two highest difficulty levels will take longer on Xbox One because the campaign here contains 10 new levels. On the other hand, PlayStation users don't get to use perks in the campaign, so the Xbox One version ends up easier overall.
The hardest Achievements are collecting all Perks (see Gembine section above), beating the game on every difficulty, and scoring 500,000 points in Survival mode. Levels 2-10 and 6-10 will take many, many attempts on the higher difficulties. Really those difficulties could use some rebalancing.
Read our in-depth Crimsonland Achievement Guide for tips!
Bloody good fun
Going entirely by screenshots, Crimsonland probably doesn't look like much. But this is a game I've played through on Windows Phone, Windows 8, Steam, PlayStation Vita, and now Xbox One. Something keeps bringing me back!
That something is (mostly) great gameplay. Crimsonland never gets dull thanks to its huge array of unlockable weapons and perks. However, numerous the enemies may be, you'll always be able to survive them with the right combination of weapons, perks, and power-ups. Local co-op makes things even more exciting and fun.
Crimsonland is the best twin-stick shooter I've played this year. Here's hoping 10tons gives us a sequel someday – without any annoying minigames!
If you prefer to play on Windows Phone, Windows 10, or Steam, be sure to check out our Crimsonland Windows review.
- Crimsonland – Xbox one – 185 MB – $13.99 – Xbox Link