Gaming these days can feel more like work than play. When you've weighed up the 800 million different options that you have to be able to just buy a game (and the preorder bonuses, and the Season Pass, and the holographic Steelbook case, and the "Limited Edition" statue) and finally got your new game installed and patched, you'll likely need to wade through twenty minutes of character development and exposition before playing a half hour tutorial that when complete, might actually allow you to play at some point.
Sometimes, you just want to sit down and play something that's relatively mindless, where you can jump right in and…well...just shoot the living hell out of something.
Crimsonland is a game where you can do that. There's no story to be found and the main character is nameless. Played from a top-down perspective, Crimsonland puts three controls in your hands. You move with the right stick, aim with the left, and fire with either trigger. You start off with a pretty weak handgun that may as well be a chocolate teapot for all the good it'll do you, but as soon as you shoot one of the meandering enemies, a better weapon will appear for you to pick up from the selection of 30 that the game contains. From there, you simply shoot everything that moves that isn't your character. From time to time, an enemy will drop a power up or another weapon for you to grab as they fall, but that's the long and the short of how the game plays. It should be noted that multiple local players can jump into the action, too.
From first looks, you could conceivably confuse it with a Flash game from a few years ago, but to combine that first impression with the simple description of the gameplay and write the whole thing off as a bad lot would be somewhat foolish, since Crimsonland has a lot to offer in spite of its simplicity. A campaign mode featuring 70 relatively short events is available, with success in these unlocking perks and weapons for use in the addictive arcade modes. These arcade modes are more fleshed-out than the campaign, strangely enough, introducing some nice variation to proceedings. In Survival mode, the goal is obviously to stay alive for as long as possible and rack up a decent score, but every time you fill your XP bar, you're offered a choice of stackable perks. This makes for a very tactical game at times. Do you improve your reload speed first, or add an automatic melee option and gamble on the reload perk coming up again later? The choice is yours. Survival mode is likely going to be the one that you come back to time and again once you've completed the main quest, and it's easy to find yourself losing an hour after just promising to have a quick five minute round. Once you feel that you've mastered the world of Survival, you can head into "Blitz" mode, which is the exact same thing with amped up enemy counts.
Other modes aren't necessarily as successful, although they're all playable enough. "Rush" mode gives you a gun and just throws enemies at you until you die, with no perks or weapon changes to be found. "Nukefism" takes away your guns and only lets you defeat enemies by hitting weapon pickups such as nuclear explosions and shock chains. "Weapon Picker" removes the ability to reload weapons, meaning that you empty the clip and then have to grab another weapon from the ground. "Waves" has you - unsurprisingly - fighting off waves of enemies one after the other, until you're overcome. Each mode has a leaderboard and an achievement to collect for hitting a very tough score target, so we dare say that even though some of the extra modes aren't massively compelling, the rush for Gamerscore will keep some playing longer than they normally would.
Crimsonland is a very simple game that is tough to master. Whilst being a lot of fun while it lasts, we can't help but feel that it's missing that undefinable something. There are definitely visual shortcomings that some people won't be able to get past (although that's more on them than the developer) and though there's simple enjoyment to be had, there's also a feeling that a lot more could have been done to mix things up for players who want a deeper experience. It'll definitely be one that you'll pick up every now and again for a quick hour of cathartic Survival mode gunplay though, that's for sure.