Let’s get straight to it: Thunderhorse Studio’s Flynn: Son of Crimson is utterly excellent, and comes highly recommended by yours truly. As a gamer of a certain vintage, I’ve played my fair share of 2D action platformers, but having just finished Flynn I would rank it as one of the best I’ve played. Everything, from the music and pixel art visuals to the gameplay loop, progression and difficulty, is just excellent all round.
Rare is the game that gets me so immersed that I genuinely lose track of time, but that was the case across my several days with Flynn. One ‘quick go’ before getting some dinner resulted in me eating very late indeed. On the surface it might seem like just another pixel art adventure, but there’s something about the game that just nails its ideas excellently.
As mentioned, the game plays out in the 2D adventure format. We move titular hero Flynn across the screen, fighting bad guys, collecting gems, and platforming our way to the exit. It’s a well worn idea, but moving Flynn about is very satisfying thanks to a brisk movement speed, and some cool weapons and attacks to use. Combat is simple enough; wail away on the enemies while watching for the tell-tale flash that they are about to attack, at which point we need to dodge roll away before resuming our attack. Some enemies have a stun meter too; fill this up by damaging them and we’re given a few seconds to attack without risk to ourselves. We start of with a basic sword, but across the 10 hour adventure we gain a whopping great axe as well as some fast and deadly claws to use. Each has their own benefit, and are introduced at pivotal moments in the tale.
Enemies can prove tough mind, with even the basic grunts able to get a good attack or two in if we don’t pay enough attention. Flynn’s health is denoted by a row of emeralds in the top left, and no matter what hits us each blow only takes one hit point off. In order to restore them we can spend energy (the circles under his life bar) to get two back at a time, but this energy is a limited resource mined from crystals scattered around the levels. It’s a fair way to handle health and balance difficulty, and more often than not the crystals needed are in good supply.
Red Crimson crystals drop the games upgrade currency, which can also be found by defeating enemies, finishing levels, and simply scattered about the level to pick up. The upgrade path for Flynn is fairly concise, but expensive. By the time I’d reached the end boss I’d only unlocked about half of the skills. It’s possible to grind out the currency by replaying levels (one late game level in particular is good for this), but we also lose 5% of our current stash each time we die. Again, it’s a fair way to encourage survival without being too punishing in my eyes, though the sight of losing hundreds of Crimson is never an easy one.
Crimson is tied inextricably to Flynn throughout the game. It transpires that he is a descendant of the lands protector, and so has access to the power of Crimson in order to fight of evil. All of his weapons and abilities are tied into it, and later on he can access a rage mode, whereby he launches into a flurry of Crimson attacks for a few seconds, dealing out massive damage while being invulnerable too. This can also be upgraded, but it never reaches the point of being overpowered.
There’s a very light element of Metroidvania to Flynn, with some extra challenge areas and hidden collectibles only accessible once we’ve gained new powers, but the main story is mostly straightforward to access. Any time we need new gear to proceed, it’s given to us pretty quickly. Levels themselves are also fairly simple to follow, again with a few hidden areas to discover. All of them are fun to play through, and are short enough to negate any annoying restarts caused by dying.
Boss battles are bastard hard though. The first is an exercise in patience, and the sudden difficulty uptick was quite the surprise. Later battles throw in all manner of difficult aspects, before the final two-stage boss really made me put the work in to best it. Importantly, I never felt that I couldn’t do it or that it was unfair, just that it was going to take some work. Finally beating them was immensely rewarding as a result.
Occasionally the Scourge will take over, and we need to head back to a previously cleared area to fight it off. This caused the levels to take on new forms, with stronger enemies and an occasional ghostly axe chasing us. These were a nice addition, although I did find myself just racing to the end rather than wasting time and energy fighting the enemies after a while so I could get back to getting on with the main story.
Flynn is a fantastic looking and sounding game. The pixel art is utterly gorgeous, with each area having lots of detail, and enemies are all uniquely designed. The effects of the Crimson weapons, special attacks, and hectic boss battles all look great too. There’s no spoken dialogue here, and minimal effects work, but that just lets us hear the fantastic score all the better. It’s far better than it has any right to be, and will be one for the playlist in the future I think.
Trusty ol’ Game Pass does it again. Flynn: Son of Crimson is a joy to play, look and and listen to. It’s difficulty is nicely paced (even if the bosses can give us a good kicking), there’s more to explore than meets the eye, and Studio Thunderhorse keep the game moving brilliantly with new powers and abilities dished out frequently. Whether you’re into these kind of retro adventures or not, Flynn is well worth a look.Become a Patron!
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox Series X/S. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.