Roses are crimson, violets are blue, the evil Scourge is coming, and its all up to you!
Sometimes a game doesn't need to be full of whizz-bang new ideas to be a good solid package of fun. Whilst some of the biggest developers in the gaming industry continue to push the boundaries of sanity by implementing NFTs into games (a moronically stupid idea if you ask me) we can always rely on indie developers to pump out great games that are just fun to play. Of course, not all indie games are great (or even good)...so what is under consideration today?
Qualbert has been given the opportunity to spend some time with Studio Thunderhorse's 'Flynn: Son of Crimson', a 2D platformer/Metroidvania game presented with a classy yet old-school coat of pixelated paint. I can pleasingly say that there are no NFTs to be found here... But how does the game itself fare? Lets find out.
Flynn: Heir of Scarlet is the story of the eponymous Flynn and the people of the Island Roscantica. Their peaceful way of life is being threatened by 'The Scourge' - an evil magical force that is trying to engulf the world. It is up to Flynn who is the last of the Crimson line and the guardian deity Dex (aka Doggo) to find the source of the Scourge and save the inhabitants of the world.
What may first seem like a bit of a cliché video-game story line actually turns out to be a surprisingly deep narrative given the overall length of the game. Speaking to townspeople and exploring some hidden areas not only gives us a better understanding of Flynn's legacy and the importance of his quest, but also explains some of the mysteries behind other characters in the game (and hints towards a possible sequel).
Flynn: Offspring of Claret is a 2D platformer/Metroidvania game with both combat challenges and puzzles that need to be conquered to move forward. The structure of the game is akin to an old-school Mario game (Super Mario World was the one that first came to my mind) where there is a linear progression of self-contained levels, with some containing multiple exits. The Metroidvania part comes in with earlier levels' second exits - to locate these the player may require items obtained much later in the game.
The puzzles are not particularly complex, and are all solvable with a good search of the room or, at worst, trial and error. Generally these will require multiple switches to be hit or boxes to be pushed into particular position to allow progression. Nothing fancy, but a good way to break up the combat in the game. Not that the combat is a drag - it is actually quite good.
Flynn begins the game armed with a sword, but unlocks additional weapons as he progresses through his quest. A skill tree is provided to offer Flynn buffs and new techniques and there is some good variety available. Variety that is necessary to combat the numerous enemies and bosses that do require particular strategies to defeat. The combat is definitely a strength of Flynn, in part because of the aforementioned variety in techniques available, but also due to an effective 'Souls-like' dodge roll that provides full immunity to damage but has a short recharge time so cannot be constantly spammed.
One later level does provide some variety from the standard platformer/Metroidvania style of gameplay. I was almost disappointed that there was not more of this available...maybe in the sequel?...Please?
There are some collectables to find scattered throughout the game, in addition to some hidden levels that are purely combat challenges. In each world area's combat challenge, wave after wave of enemies will be thrown at you, usually requiring effective use of the new items/skills obtained in that area of the world.
I did have one minor gripe that I need to mention, and this relates to the controls. There is a moment at the edge of platforms where it feels like Flynn should still be able to jump, but often he seems to just fall - at least until you become accustomed to this slightly awkward timing. As far as I can tell there were not any inputs being 'eaten', rather it seems that the programming has Flynn enter the 'fall' state slightly too early. In any case it is only a minor frustration - but one I wanted to call out nonetheless.
In terms of accessibility, Flynn: Scion of Maroon has a couple of simple and effective options for players that need some extra assistance to make their way through the game. First up are two toggles that make Flynn and/or his enemies stand out clearly from the background. Secondly is a 'god mode' that as expected makes Flynn invincible to damage. It is always a pleasure to see developers provide these options to allow a wider audience to experience and enjoy a game.
In regard to difficulty I was able to make my way through the game and obtain a '101%' completion without too many issues. Deaths are very forgiving (even with god mode off), usually returning you to the same screen or at least very close by - just make sure to use your currency for upgrades whenever a new one is available to avoid large losses from the 5% death tax.
As you can see from the various screenshots throughout this review, Flynn: Descendent of Vermillion is animated in a cute, old-school, pixelated style. The movement of Flynn, Dex and their enemies is smooth and even when surrounded by enemies it is clear where you are and what you are doing.
At important story points in the game there are some comic style frames presented to progress the tale. Unfortunately, these come across as jarring almost 'low-res' style photos that really take you out of the game. I guess the developers were tying to maintain the 'pixel' style here, but really I don't know why they didn't use some higher resolution images here to really portray the trials and tribulations of Flynn in greater detail. I feels like a bit of a missed opportunity for me.
I can report that pleasingly the game generally ran very smoothly on my Switch in both handheld and docked mode. I do have to report one specific level where I encountered some truly god-awful slowdown akin to an NES game with too many sprites on the screen. I suspect the game was generally running in a smooth 30fps throughout the majority of my time with it, but on that one level the framerate would have halved - or worse. I am guessing that PC, PS4 and Xbox versions of the games would not encounter this particular issue, and fortunately it did only seem to crop up in one level.
What I can report on with great enthusiasm is the excellent sound design and music in the game. There are multiple tracks that are used to great effect in contributing to the atmosphere of the game. From contemplative puzzle solving or story exposition to hectic boss battles, truly the audio here is a high point with the score providing an excellent backing for the epic moments of the game.
So how did I feel overall about Flynn: Boy of Red? I enjoyed it.
It has been a while for me since I last played a platformer with such a linear progression of levels (it might have been Rayman Legends), and it was pleasing to just 'relax' a bit and just play without needing to worry too much about missing a hidden exit that was essential to progress through the game.
Other than some minor gripes with the controls, I was never really frustrated when playing Flynn. However, I don't think I was truly challenged either. To me this feels like a really good entry point to 2D platformers and Metroidvania style games. I don't hesitate to recommend this game as a worthy use of your time (about 8-10 hours worth), but don't expect anything particularly ground-breaking or unique here.
So, why should you play it?
You like a little more structure to your games, but are interested in what a Metroidvania style game has to offer
Old-school pixel presentation and a banging soundtrack
But, why shouldn't you play it?
Retro/Pixel art is not your preferred presentation style.
You consider yourself an expert in Metroidvania style games and want to be challenged with your advancement through the game.
A review code on Nintendo Switch was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Leigh 'SirLemsip' Zemski
Leigh is a game reviewer and columnist from Melbourne. His favourite genres are JRPGs, rhythm games, third person action games and old-school shoot 'em ups. You can read more of his reviews and retrospective articles at qualbert.com