Flynn: Son of Crimson Review: I Feel Like I’ve Played This Before…
Expecting magic and originality out of every game we play isn’t necessarily fair. It can be easy for those of us who have been gaming for many years to discount titles that don’t provide us with new experiences, but there’s nothing wrong with taking well-worn elements and executing them well. To its credit, Flynn: Son of Crimson doesn’t do anything particularly wrong. It controls well enough. It’s bright and colorful and looks fairly nice. You eventually get a wide variety of moves that let you approach each area in multiple ways.
I just wish the whole thing didn’t feel so mediocre. While Flynn doesn’t do anything wrong, it also doesn’t do much truly right. This feels like the sort of game you’d expect to be created by a soulless corporation, not by a small team of dedicated indie developers. There are a few bright points, but I consistently struggled to care about my journey.
Son Of Heroes
Flynn is the son of a pair of great heroes who once saved his home of Rosantica. Nowadays, his dog Dex, who happens to be the guardian spirit of their island, spends his days hanging out with Flynn while keeping everyone safe. When enemies attack the island, though, threatening to destroy a magical barrier protecting the land, Dex ends up in rough shape after saving Flynn. With the island’s Crimson Sword, you set out to save Dex and stop The Scourge from befalling your home.
Levels in Flynn have a bit more complexity than the average action platformer, but they never do much interesting with this. Some areas have multiple paths or exits, for example, but many of them only allow you to take certain paths once you’ve completed others or when you return later with new items. As a result, it rarely feels like there’s a choice to be made. Everything looks nice, and there’s a competent soundtrack as well, but nothing is particularly memorable.
Expand Your Arsenal
In pretty quick order, you get the option to heal and access to a skill tree which lets you unlock upgrades and new abilities. The option to expand Flynn’s arsenal is useful, and some of these moves are certainly worth their cost. While regular enemies can usually be handled with just the game’s core power set, over time, you’ll find more complex areas making use of more complex moves. Boss battles, in particular, do benefit from having upgraded abilities.
Along the way, you’ll gain elemental powers, additional weapons and expand the abilities of what you already have. They all feel fine, but it all feels pretty basic. Everything here is something we’ve seen in a million similar games over the last few years, and little of it has enough personality to make it stand out in any way. I liked the inclusion of villages, something we don’t see a lot of in games of this nature. In practice, though, I found them fairly bland with little to do beyond picking up a few side quests.
Injecting elements we more often see in a Metroidvania, such as branching paths and regular upgrades, into a more standard level-based game sounds like it could be intriguing in concept. In practice, however, these genres play so alike that it doesn’t make any real difference. The most interesting parts of the game are when Dex later comes into play, but even that is so rare that it barely feels worth mentioning. I liked a couple of fun references throughout the game, like a section clearly inspired by the Lost Woods in Zelda. They don’t help Flynn establish its own identity, though.
While playing Flynn, I was regularly reminded of Kaze and the Wild Masks from earlier this year. That was also a somewhat derivative title, but it had so much personality that it kept me engaged from start to finish. Flynn, on the other hand, is an entirely uninteresting character. His island home is a bland location. The gameplay does nothing to set it apart from a million similar titles. Every element is adequate, but what makes this game worth checking out when there are a hundred similar games? I can’t find much. The most memorable stretch for me are a few sections where you’re being chased by a boulder, but I found these more maddening than fun.
I don’t want to be too negative because you could do far worse than to spend some time with Flynn: Son of Crimson. This is a consistently adequate game that, now and then, can reach a bit above that level. It enters a truly crowded market for its genre, though. Game Pass subscribers may be tempted to check it out, and with the game being included, there’s no real cost to do so. The service is filled with more exciting titles in a similar vein, though—games like Celeste, Dead Cells, Katana Zero. When you have options like that, it becomes more difficult to recommend Flynn. If you’ve already played them and want more, though, then checking this one out could be worth your time.
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: Xbox One(Reviewed), PS4, Switch, PC; Publisher: Humble Games; Developer: Studio Thunderhorse; Players: 1; Released: September 15th, 2021; ESRB: E10+ for Everyone 10+; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of Flynn: Son of Crimson.