Flynn: Son of Crimson PC Review
Isn’t it funny how easy it is to spot Kickstarter titles these days? I took a wild guess just from the look of this one and was totally right! I wonder why this genre in particular is so popular. I mean, ‘2D action platformer with pixel art’ has basically become synonymous with ‘crowdfunded video game’. Looking back at the campaign now though, it’s sad to see it didn’t meet the $90k ‘Rozia Story DLC’ stretch goal because I was wondering what the heck happened with that character at the end. Starting as the main antagonist but quickly being downgraded to the real villain’s lackey is not an uncommon trope, but after they teased she’d break off and forge her own path only for it to go nowhere really hurt the ending, and now we know why. The shift in the narrative’s tone is actually palpable as you meet for the final time before the climactic end battle and speedrun the only meaningful character development in the game. There could have at least been some kind of epilogue because there are some big spoilery things that never even start to get resolved! But don’t read too deep into that tangent because I actually rather enjoyed Flynn: Son of Crimson.
After getting his ass kicked in front of a magical shrine, Flynn is called to adventure by the need to heal his best friend Dex after she takes a nasty hit saving his life. Thus, Flynn is flung (say that three times fast) into his quest with nothing but a dodge-roll, the ability to jump four-times his own height, and a godly crimson sword gifted to him mysteriously upon said ass-kicking. Oh, and Dex just so happens to be a behemoth wolf/dog/guardian spirit, obviously. Throughout the journey across the continent(?), or perhaps just a small corner of the countryside with a lot of problems, new weapons and even different types of ranged magic are unlocked to overcome all manners of beasties and obstacles, as you track down the four guardian shrines and recover their spirits to heal Dex. Wait, I’m sure they were guardian spirits but isn’t also Dex? Is Dex a guardian spirit that needs to devour other spirits to get better? Either way, it’s a bunch of red blobs you need to journey out for and collect. Hopefully you’ll get how uninspired the story is from my complete lack of take-away from it outside of major plot points even after completing the game 101% (not a typo).
That’s OK, though. The dime-a-dozen narrative, that quickly falls into ‘defeat the big meanie destroying the world’ anyway, is only there to give the player a reason to run off into a whirlwind of escapades and fall comfortably into a true tried and tested gameplay loop. Go through each area taking on unique challenges in the form of puzzles and platforming, fight new and upgraded enemies, hunt for hidden ‘shinies’ to trade for money, use that money to buy upgrades, and take down bosses. All whilst breathing in the absolutely gorgeous pixel art that brings every individual environment, background, and character popping to life, of course. The whole experience is just so chill. Combat is boiled down to incredibly basic dodge-timing and waiting for your moment to strike, which depends on your weapon of choice, and the occasional curve ball such as needing to plonk charged enemies with an electric blast of your own to remove their damaging defence. Stun meters help get in a gratifying burst of damage, and ‘crimson mode’ allows you to pop-off in a bind or to chunk through a boss’ meaty HP once charged. It’s simple fun and the need to switch between weapons and magical elements for certain foes is a nice way for the late-game to ramp up brawls without just pumping health bars.
Flynn: Son of Crimson manages to cover a lot of ground for it’s six-ish hour campaign. Although some stages can feel a little repetitive, mostly due to the sheer amount of samey goblins you’ll massacre, most of the time there’s some kind of interesting twist in play. Whether it’s being chased by an unkillable giant ghost-axe, needing to scuffle with goo zombies on a moving two-floor cart as you dodge deadly vines, or even a short SHMUP stage as you climatically boost Dex back to full strength. The array of novel boss encounters are also an absolute treat, with their cool stylistics and tricky movesets to learn and execute across. Don’t get me wrong, it might have the odd ‘scourge’ attacks, which are revamped levels up to the teeth with powerful monsters and dangerous threats, and a few unlockable wave-based combat trials (a stretch goal that was reached), but it really doesn’t do anything we haven’t seen before. However, bringing it all together with a solid design, satisfying controls, and being the cherry-on-top nostalgia-fest that it is really seals the deal. A splendid example of the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.