I was fortunate enough to grow up during the golden age of action platformers. In my early childhood, there were classics like Super Mario Brothers which people still rave about to this day. More recently there have been indie darlings like Celeste and Ori and the Will of the Wisps. However, despite this, I never really played any of them myself. Unfortunately, the sheer amount of precision required simply didn’t interest me. For a while now I’ve wanted to get into the genre, but never found the game that truly inspired me. Fortunately, the gorgeous artwork and fantastic soundtrack of Flynn: Son of Crimson has vastly changed my opinion. This hidden gem, and my first entry into the genre, has opened my eyes to a plethora of underrated games. Studio Thunderhorse has truly created a beautifully crafted 2D action platformer that is unique in almost every way.
“Visually and aurally speaking, Flynn: Son of Crimson is a truly mesmerising game.”
Flynn: Son of Crimson takes place in the mythical world of Rosantica. Remnants of the Great Conflict, a war fought between mortals and gods, are threatening the peace once again. You play as Flynn, a young orphan boy who, accompanied by his companion Dex, sets out on an epic journey. From the mountain tops of Mistral Peak to the rustling trees of Rustwood, you will embark on a journey like no other. It is your job to discover your true origins all the while awakening the crimson power within you.
Visually and aurally speaking, Flynn: Son of Crimson is a truly mesmerising game. The pixel art combines exuberant colours and hand-painted palettes to exude personality and distinction in each biome. I would often catch myself staring in awe at the fluid animations of Flynn’s fiery red hair and Dex’s luscious coat as they traverse the world together. In addition, there is never a shortage of enemy varieties and designs as you face man-eating plants, killer bees, mischievous goblins, big-bellied fish-men, and more.
“The main focus of the game is a well-balanced juggle between combat and platforming with the occasional boss fight thrown in for good measure.”
Furthermore, despite a lack of voice acting, the ambient sound effects and brilliantly composed soundtrack manage to make Flynn: Son of Crimson feel alive. The musical score by Jacob Lincke is gorgeous, utilizing a combination of piano melodies, woodwind instruments, and beating drums to create an appropriate atmosphere for each scenario. The little details of how enemies react and sound in combat to the shattering gems of health crystals further prove how much effort was put in by Studio Thunderhorse.
Flynn: Son of Crimson is a stage based platforming game that also features an overworld map. There are also a few smatterings of metroidvania elements woven throughout. For example, you’ll occasionally return to a few locations that you couldn’t get past previously and certain levels will contain multiple exit paths. For the most part, however, the main focus of the game is a well-balanced juggle between combat and platforming with the occasional boss fight thrown in for good measure.
“Repetition is nonexistent as no two stages feel the same.”
Each level is perfectly crafted in terms of level design. It is always clear where you need to go without constantly needing to look at a map. Studio Thunderhorse introduces a staggering variety of stage arrangements, ranging from combat heavy levels to platform heavy levels. This ensures that repetition is nonexistent as no two stages feel the same.
Throughout each level, there are red and green crystals that can be destroyed and collected as currency. The crimson crystals are needed to unlock skills and upgrades later on and the green crystals refill your potion meter. Hidden in each stage are also artefact collectables that can be sold for crimson crystals in town. Later on, you also get access to a coliseum where you can partake in repeatable challenges. This helps add an additional layer of fun replayability in a game already packed with content.
“I felt there was a nice sense of cooperative play that helped flesh out the bond between the two characters in a meaningful way.”
Furthermore, combat is crisp and impactful. This is largely due to the incredible sound and animation design which help bring to life each swing of your weapon. Additionally, combat also feels challenging in a way that is both fun and rewarding. Flynn’s arsenal contains a melee weapon, ranged magic, and a special mode called crimson fury. Magic can be paired with elemental effects which allows for a more strategic approach to combat and exploration.
Your crimson fury can be activated once an energy bar is filled, either from time or collecting fury shards. During this activation, Flynn goes berserk and can unleash a flurry of stringed attacks that deal increased damage. This mode is incredibly enjoyable to use and brings a unique sense of flair to the overall combat. Additionally, partway into the narrative your companion Dex can also be called upon to aid you. I felt this added a nice sense of cooperative play and helped flesh out the bond between the two characters in a meaningful way.
“Flynn: Son of Crimson doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it does what it set out to do perfectly.”
Progression in Flynn: Son of Crimson is excellently paced. Initially, you’ll start with just a crimson blade, but as you progress you’ll get access to incredible weapons such as the crimson axe and awesome crimson bow. Aside from having a different moveset, each weapon also serves as a different tool to be used in particular situations. For example, the axe must be used to smash otherwise unbreakable walls, and the bow must be used to trigger switches and puzzles. This combination of utilising your weapons for both combat and exploration helped create a seamless gameplay experience the likes of which I haven’t seen perfected in this way in quite some time.
Furthermore, after the beginning moments of the game, you also get access to a skill tree in which you use your collected crimson shards to gain new skills and abilities. These skills vary from adding a new combo to your melee kit or an extra five seconds of crimson fury. They help flesh out an otherwise fantastic gameplay experience and add a little extra depth to combat.
Flynn: Son of Crimson doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it does what it set out to do perfectly. My entire playthrough felt unbelievably fun and well-polished thanks to the game’s incredible presentation and phenomenal content. The moment to moment gameplay along with the excellently crafted stages allow for a fluid and exciting experience. With an alluring narrative in addition to the hand-drawn pixel art and beautiful music, Flynn: Son of Crimson is a fantastic 2D action platformer that may be my game of the year. Go do yourself a favour and go get it!
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PC, code was provided by the Publisher.