Flynn: Son of Crimson is not a Metroidvania.
I know this is a bit of an odd way to begin a review, but for me, it’s an important distinction to make. I was sold on the idea that this was a Metroidvania: it has been on several “upcoming Metroidvania” listings, I’ve seen a handful loop it in with others, and there has been at least some advertisement toward that effect. There are some very loose Metroidvania elements in it: you action platform your way across stages and alternate routes do open up later. But those alternate routes are more often a result of finding keys to unlock doors ala Mario than they are a Metroidvania.
Instead, the game plays like some of the old Super Nintendo or other platformers. That Mario comparison kind of holds water, as you have various stages which you can revisit at any point during the game. Each stage is a self contained area, upon which the titular Flynn can jump, dodge-roll, attack with his sword, or do a variety of other attacks (several of which are unlocked via purchase, which isn’t explained right out of the gate but can be intuited).
The game play is remarkably solid and very well polished. Everything feels crisp and responsive, and you can tell just by looking at the game that a lot of love went into it. I never felt like the controls or the game were working against me: it all felt very well put together and like it was made by people who knew what they were doing (which is more than I can say for some games *cough*Carrion*cough*).
You grow naturally throughout the game, and it happens at a pretty decent place. On top of the aforementioned purchasable upgrades (mostly health expansions, increased damage and special moves), Flynn receives various upgrades to his magic, usually involving a fungus guy sneezing on him.
There are also bosses, which is to be expected. Each comes at the end of the biome of stages you’ve completed (the above is the frozen peak biome, obviously), and they’re meant to test the various abilities that you’ve gathered thus far. They’re often well done, but the only ones I found particularly challenging were the final two. Most can be defeated simply by unlocking “Crimson Rage” mode, which is something that Flynn accumulates which allows him to essentially attack without stopping and with some invincibility.
The biomes are well polished, but not particularly imaginative or unique. There’s the island, forest, frozen mountain, cave, underwater cave, and swamp. They have a tendency to blend, and they moved from island to frozen mountain to cave to underwater cave, meaning the first chunk of the game was essentially exploring a lot of wet caves and areas. It got samey, not helped by the game’s odd padding decision.
See, every so often, the “Scourge” will invade the land, taking over a stage you’ve previously completed and forcing you to return to do a slightly upgraded version of the stage. This wouldn’t be so bad if there was any reward for doing so. But instead, they lock you out of exploring anything else, essentially punishing you by redoing a level you’ve already completed, and while it’s changed up, nothing else is added. It’s padding, plain and simple.
By now it may be noticeable that I haven’t touched on the story much. There is one, though it’s relatively loose and a little light. Flynn has inherited the power of Crimson from his mother (spoilers: she’s a goddess and she talks to him). The scourge is being released by Zeamus (no relation to Zeromus of Final Fantasy fame I’m sure), who wants to infect the world for reasons that aren’t well explained or I somehow entirely missed.
Oh, and he damages your dog. There’s a dog; she’s arguably part of the coolest part. The driving force is healing the dog, so at least the creators knew how to hit players where we’d be interested.
The story is told via wordless comic book style cutscenes, which would be cool. Again: there’s really nothing new here.
In summary, Flynn: Son of Crimson seems to want to invoke the old feelings of playing a really good Super Nintendo platform. It’s all kinds of stylish, with responsive controls, excellent graphics, and some pretty good music if you’re cool with folk tunes (everything is folk). However, it feels as rather lacking, with a story and world that offer nothing new to the players, a progression system that could use a bit expanding, and some unnecessary padding.
If you’re really into the retro scene or want a game that invokes that SNES feel, this would probably hit you well Otherwise, it’s not quite worth it as far as experiences go, and it’s certainly not a Metroidvania. I’m not likely to boot this one up or play it ever again, but at the same time, I didn’t push myself to finish it.
5 a perfectly average game. Objectively it may be closer to a 6 or a 7, as it’s well polished, but I was sold on this by “Metroidvania,” which it’s definitely not (and I’m too into story to rate it higher than average).