Coming home from a long, hard day at work, the last thing you want to do is think. You want to sit down, relax, shut the brain off and get involved in some mindless, stress-relieving carnage. There are more than a few games that sate this desire, but one in particular from 2003 won the hearts of a lot of gamers: Crimsonland. It was one of the earliest examples of blood-soaked arena shooters and one of the first games to move the action to a 2D plane in the wake of Serious Sam.
The game is a top-down, twitch-shooter affair with a slight RPG slant and a distinctly B-grade aesthetic. Players equip themselves with all manner of over-the-top weapons (ion cannons and plasma shotguns, anybody?) which are used to take on horde after horde of monsters in a barren landscape. True to its name, the excessive bloodshed will ensure that, before long, the ground will be absolutely soaked in the blood and gibs of your enemies. The combat is extremely repetitive and immensely gratifying, while the enemy roster is the typical assortment of gaming badguys: zombies, aliens, spiders and so forth. The designs of the former two are passable, but it’s the spiders that really stand out. They’re ugly, repulsive and their movement is disturbingly lifelike, ensuring that you’ll want to squash them posthaste.
As Crimsonland wears on and players unlock new stages, upgrades in the form of “perks” will become available and can be used to swing the odds in your favour; reloading faster or firing poison bullets can make all the difference when you’re cornered and a hundred different enemies are rapidly closing in. In addition, random power-ups will appear on the field as enemies are eliminated; you can activate a nuke, freeze all enemies on the screen, slow down time or fire incendiary bullets for a few glorious seconds. Before long, combat becomes an intense show of fireworks, gore and special effects, and although the graphics are nothing special, it becomes loads of fun to watch the whole fiasco unfold.
There are dozens of pre-configured stages to muscle through, though they are honestly not too difficult. Things take on a considerably more chaotic turn when you decide to try out the survival mode, which features our nameless protagonist in a perpetual fight with a never-ending stream of monsters.
The title has been off the radar for a few years now, but the good news is that there is a remade version that has recently become available on Steam. We’ll avoid the usual sanctimonious arguments about the legitimacy of remaking games, but suffice to say, Crimsonland is one title that definitely deserves such treatment. The remake features an updated presentation, enhanced graphics and assorted tweaks to its gameplay, perks and UI. One noticeable difference is that perks are only available in survival mode and must be unlocked by grinding through the campaign. Though I’m not sure if I’m a fan of this change to the original game’s fundamentals, it does add meta-goals and replayability to the experience.
If you want to give the remake a stab, you can find both the Steam and PS4 versions on the official site. The ever-benevolent folks at GOG.com have their own build which includes the original 2003 classic as a free bonus. Either way, if you want low-budget, gory 2D shooter action, you simply can’t go wrong with Crimsonland.