A copy of the game was provided to IGF by the developer for this review.
Flynn: Son of Crimson is a fantasy, adventure, side-scroller RPG where you play as Flynn, the silent protagonist, as he embarks on a quest to save Rosantica before it is overrun by a dark power known as The Scourge. As the title suggests, Flynn can harvest the power of the crimson. This power is rooted in the history of Rosantica and allows you to reach hard-to-get-to places, fight hard-to-fight enemies, and as the player you can choose how you utilise the crimson with the skill tree.
The game starts out by giving you easy/normal/hard difficulty options, which although a small detail it’s not something you always see in indie games, it makes for some nice and subtle replayability, not to mention the fact that if you’re struggling, you can always take it down a notch or two. The controls are simple enough and after one or two levels they feel very natural, with the jump, dodge and attack mechanics feeling very smooth and well rendered. On PC, you are given the option to use Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, or keyboard controls, which is great to see. The enemies are varied and prove to be relatively tricky at times if you’re not being careful. The urge to button mash falls short in the game as the enemies shimmer before attacking, forcing you to dodge and roll your way around them to avoid taking damage. Complementing this are the 3 main weapon types you can use to get the job done; the crimson sword, offering a balance of mobility and damage output, the crimson axe which offers high damage delivery with lower mobility and the crimson claws that enable agile movement and stylish, airborne attacks at the cost of lower damage per strike.
Finding the Story
The main story begins with trying to save Dex, Flynn’s mythical dog companion, (who you can’t pet, literally unplayable), but as Flynn progresses through the world, NPC’s offer snippets of his past. It’s very much a game that requires you to look for the story in order to find it, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s reasonably fast paced, so the narrative and gameplay pacing aren’t always as well matched as it could be. The story is intriguing at the start, but it does end up becoming a little lost among the gameplay, and it can feel a little disconnected at times due to the layout of the map. There’s a lot of going back and forth, which takes away from the linearity of the world, and feels displaced. Although The Scourge serves as the main antagonist in the game, there are moments where your progression is locked by The Scourge, and you must backtrack to discover and destroy the source of it before you can progress again. When you’re on a roll with the game, it can feel rather frustrating to be forced to jump back. They’re not for me, but if you’re a metroidvania fan and like your environmental soft locks a la Carrion and Hollow Knight then you’ll feel right at home here.
Having said that, the game has some wonderfully charming interactions that really pick the story back up. You come across these toadstool gnome-like creatures that gift you a total of 4 elemental magic types (crimson, flame, frost and electric) throughout the game. These interactions are minimal, but the quirky character animation and charming music that plays really creates some memorable moments. In fact, it’s the visual and gameplay design that really make up for where the narrative aspect falls a little short. These 4 magic types are heavily used, with different magic proving much more effective against certain enemies, or obstacles in the world. The puzzles, although relatively simple, do make you stop and think at times, and where the puzzle solutions come naturally, there is often a well-placed enemy or two that adds to the challenge.
The art style and lighting are beautiful, and the game design really makes use of the weather and conditions, such as the toxic zones where you must periodically be under cover to rest, or in stormy weather, where you’re running against the wind. Despite the fact that all you’re really doing is pressing a button to move forward, you really do feel as though you’re fighting the elements.
Boss Fights and Short Flights
The boss battles were a little oddly spread out, with what is essentially 3 in a row at the end, but the actual gameplay of them is perfectly balanced between being challenging, doable, and fun. You will need a few attempts for each boss, having to learn their attack patterns like any other, but after doing so, the battle becomes easier without becoming easy. They are very well designed and come with a great sense of achievement once overcome.
Towards the end of the game, Flynn momentarily acquires a parachute which allows you to glide across the sky for short moments at a time, but oddly this is only used for one level. Introducing an incredibly fun mechanic before immediately taking it away seems like a very strange choice, and it was especially disappointing because it was so much fun! You expect it to show up again, perhaps even for the final boss battle, but it doesn’t, and I’d love to see it worked into the core gameplay loop and expanded on in a sequel.
Something that might catch you if guard is a scene towards the end where you’re flying on Dex to get towards your destination. It’s one of those classic side-scroller levels, where you’re flying and must move up or down to dodge anything coming your way. It’s the final stretch of the hero’s journey, a brave step towards one last fight. But nothing prepares you for how incredibly fast that dog can fly! Although the dedication to a realistic experience of flying on a mythical beast is appreciated, slowing it down a little will save some players from a case of serious jetlag. Additionally, for this level you’re actually moving from right to left, which feels very disorientating when you’ve been going left to right for the rest of the game.
Flynn: Son of Crimson is a lovingly handcrafted game with buckets of character, and thanks to a wide release across all major platforms (and Xbox Game Pass) is a not-so-hidden indie gem that is absolutely worth your time. It’s audio, art, narrative, and game design all come together where it really matters and create a thoroughly enjoyable experience for veteran 2D platformer fans and new players alike.