Flynn: Son Of Crimson
Help Flynn and his mythical companion Dex save Rosantica before the evil from The Scourge claims his home. In Flynn: Son of Crimson, you’ll go on a journey of discovery and conflict as you learn to master the power of Crimson Energy.
+ Great pixel art visuals.
+ Decent soundtrack.
+ Fun and creative boss fights.
+ Decent puzzle and set piece segments to keep the player interested.
+ Good variety of enemies.
+ The element system has a fun variety.
- Monotonous and shallow gameplay loop.
- Some odd design choices that clash with the gameplay and pacing.
- Not enough doggo action segments.
Honestly, I would be lying if I said I didn’t pick up Flynn: Son of Crimson because it allows controlling a big magical doggo. And in that aspect, Flynn didn’t disappoint – nor did it in general. Frankly, this debut title from Studio Thunderhorse is a bog-standard platformer; it does nothing new or exceptional but it is a decent enough and polished experience to try out if you crave some pixel art goodness.
Welcome To Rosantica
The land of Rosantica is under threat from the invasive Scourge, so our titular redheaded boy must stop it at all costs; partnering with his four-legged companion, the Guardian Spirit Dex, he aims to hunt down the evil overlord Zealock. Overall, the plot is… well nothing special, it’s just there to drive the gameplay forward.
Visuals & Soundtrack
The visuals though are pretty good; the cute pixel art is charming and the animations are fluid too. Both enemy and NPC design are memorable and full of personality. Though since the plot is so barebones, the NPCs are little more than just quest markers and speech boxes – one-dimensional, in a nutshell.
Soundtrack consists of lovely fantasy tunes; these fit the game’s adventurous tone well, as you hop and slash across the games’ locales.
The game plays out in levels unlocked and selectable from an overworld (not unlike Super Mario World); these levels themselves are split into numerous screens. Each level hosts a series of challenges for Flynn to overcome. From varied enemies, minibosses and exciting set-pieces to platforming hazards, door/key and switch puzzles…. its got it all. There’s unique themes for each area the levels take place in – such as a forest, icy caverns and the seaside. Fresh set pieces supplement these themes well, like auto-scrolling and underwater segments.
Exploration is encouraged even though the linear design of doesn’t leave much room for it. Flynn can collect red orbs scattered around or from red crystal growths which can be exchanged for new skills back in the town. The skill tree includes upgrades for more health, new moves and so on. Nothing earth-shattereing but they do a decent job of supplementing the core combat. There’s also hidden collectables that can changed for more red orbs, as well as optional challenge areas – so completionists can expect to spend a bit of time with this game.
The combat is the highlight of the game. Blessed by his mother and goddess of Rosantica, Sorrell, Flynn starts off with a magical sword and a ranged magic ball attack. Melee combat is combo based with basic 1-2-3 hit attacks while ranged magic also deals some damage to enemies. Foes also have a yellow meter that builds up on every hit Flynn lands, maxing out which causes the enemy to get staggered for a few seconds. However this also means that even basic goblin enemies have decent-sized health pools. That means the combat quickly devolves into a mindless loop; mash the attack button, dodge when the enemy telegraphs one of two specific attacks and repeat until they die.
Flynn also gains access to two other weapons on his adventure: the axe and claws; all have different damage and speed rates, but honestly the claws are the most fun to use. There’s also new magical attacks, each of a new element: fire, ice and thunder. All have different purposes within the context of both combat and platforming. Like Ice allows freezing enemies and water. Or Fire, which can light up dark areas and eat away at foe’s health when fully charged. Ultimately though, the game doesn’t really grow past its basic formula even by the end of the game.
The level design itself is alright; all levels follow a tight loop of combat, platforming and puzzles. It’s nothing on the level of Hollow Knight or Ori & The Blind Forest mind you, but it gets the job done. And speaking of Metroidvanias, this game does have light elements from that genre. Flynn will occasionally backtrack to previous areas or encounter levels that lead different levels on the map. But otherwise, it’s your standard linear action platformer where a new level is unlocked on beating the previous one.
Flynn’s own health is managed by a green bar, and health can be replenished using Healing Orbs ,which in turn are filled up by breaking green crystals scattered throughout his expeditions. While the game itself is moderately challenging, there’s enough green crytsals around to put it on the easier side; with enough health upgrades you can even tank some bosses.
Yep, there are boss fights too and these are easily the highlight of the game. From a cold assassin commanding the element of ice, to a knight armed with a sniper – they’re all cool and conceptually fresh. Plus they’re definitely not a cakewalk, and demand quick reflexes and pattern recognition from the player.
Not All Roses And Sunshine
Sadly, Flynn: Son Of Crimson is also riddled with baffling design choices; one gripe I have with the levels is their length – they drag on for longer than they need to. The monotonous loop of tanky enemies and repeated puzzles also dulled the experience halfway through the game for me.
Then there’s the Scourge Lockdown. As Flynn progresses through the areas, one of the previous levels will turn into a nightmarish variant taken over by the Scourge. This locks away all other levels, putting a full stop to your endeavors; until you beat the infestation at the end of that level that is. Scourge infested levels will be filled with unique and stronger enemies and new hazards. This gimmick is repeated more than a few times throughout the game and just becomes a chore, on top of being obvious padding.
The game also introduces a glider in one of the levels only to take it away after that, NEVER to be used again… why? It would’ve definitely spiced up the level design further. The weapons too feel undercooked in terms of environmental interactivity; the axe can break through pink crystals that block certain entrances. But that’s it – the other two don’t have such a purpose.
There’s also a meter for Flynn which, when full, allows him to enter Crimson Control; a berserk or rage mode of sorts where his attacks are stronger, literally juggling enemies into combo-bliivion. Unfortunately, it takes a while to build up the meter completely… And to make matters worse, using some of the optional moves unlocked from the skill tree (eg. the uppercut or down-thrust) will take away some of the charge from the Crimson meter. Moves that would be passively usable in other games bog down the flow of combat in this game – who thought this was a good idea?
Also don’t be misled by the press release trailers out there; the amount of time you control Dex is negligible in comparison to the amount of time Flynn spends fighting himself. Understandable due to how the story plays out but not even for the finale.
Flynn: Son Of Crimson didn’t blow my socks off – but it didn’t necessarily need to. For what it is, it’s a decent game that has some design fumbles… but given this is Studio Thunderhorse’s first game, I think they’ve done a good enough job of keeping me interested enough until the end.
On a side note, the game is pretty light on resources so it will run well on anything made in the past 15 years. The game is out on PC (via Steam and Humble Bundle), PlayStation 4, Xbox (One, Series X|S and Xbox Game Pass) and Nintendo Switch for $20.