The moment you boot up Crashlands, you’re greeted by three men singing “Butterscotch Shenanigans,” the name of the development team behind what is, without question, one of the best and most hilarious games of 2016 thus far. From the singing developers to the ridiculous banter between the protagonists, comedy pours out of every corner of this project. But more than that, love is abundant. The three “Butterscotch” brothers have dumped endless amounts of depth and detail into this release, truly elevating Crashlands to new heights.
Some of the best works often come from times of trial: Crashlands entered development as a “cathartic release,” as the brothers put it, following the news that brother Sam had been diagnosed with cancer. In spite of this challenge (or perhaps because of it), Crashlands is a fantastic game full of vibrant art, detailed gameplay mechanics, and endless amounts of accessible humor, even amidst some mild complaints. In short, Crashlands is a triumph.
The player takes control of Flux, a silly and sassy galactic delivery woman (+1 for a new badass female protagonist) whose ship is destroyed by the HewgoDooko, an evil alien and the game’s main antagonist. After crash landing on the planet of Woanope with trusty robot sidekick Juicebox and little else, it is up to the player to scavenge for materials, explore the vast area, and find a way to get your packages delivered! (Priorities, right?)
The sheer amount of hilarious sass in Crashlands leads the way in this game’s march to glory. Every item in the game has a funny description, every story moment features ridiculous banter between Flux and Juicebox, and even the loading screens say things such as “Initiating Hoedown” (which made me laugh every single time). What this amounts to is a game which leans into its own absurdity with a level of self-awareness and a flair of modern-day attitude. It’s a refreshing take on game story and characterization in a time when a flood of games, from AAA titles to indies, often leaves players with shallow characters and little to connect with.
But comedy and sass do not a successful game make. The core of any game is the gameplay, and Crashlands does not disappoint on any front. The balance in the game is, arguably, pretty darn perfect. The game moves you along in fine time, progressing from collecting sticks, building a small one room hut, and piecing together some level one armor; to dominating the many enemies and creatures the game has to offer with an impressive war hammer. There’s seemingly no end to the amount of playable depth the Butterscotch Brothers have added in. Need a Minecraft fix? Collect materials and build the ultimate house. Craving some challenging combat? Teleport farther into the world and take on huge, fast, and heavy-hitting enemies. Juicebox not providing enough company? Hatch a pet of your very own to battle alongside you!
The Butterscotch Brothers have designed a deep inventory system which excels at staying out of the way. Players will face minimal inventory screens, and items will magically appear in Flux’s hand when they’re needed, cutting down on the amount of buttons needed. Combat is based around building the best weapons for the most damage, building armor for higher health, and moving back and forth around an enemy, dodging attacks and landing individual hits. This “Dance of Death,” as it’s lovingly named, lacks some precision in the mobile version, but never enough to hinder the overall gameplay.
Crashlands is not quite perfect, however. There is so much to do in this game, but sometimes things aren’t well explained (or explained much at all). Crashlands rarely holds your hand and instead allows you to explore and do as you like, but it can cause things to slip through the cracks that can leave the player lost and wandering later on. Additionally, there’s so much to do here that some of it can feel superfluous, at least for large portions of the game. Unlike Minecraft, there’s hardly ever a true need to build a house beyond simply wanting to. Players will most likely never need to actually farm, and lots of items will be used for ten to twenty minutes, only to be never used again. It’s nice that these features are in the game, and some players will utilize them, but it’s hard to not think that they may leave the game bloated.
One last complaint is more difficult to place a finger on. As of this review, Crashlands has been released for iOS, Google Play, and Steam. I can’t personally speak to whether or not this issue is an issue in the PC version of the game (Jump to the bottom of this review to read a second take from our Senior Editor and my good friend Rob, who played the PC version), but it certainly hit me like a wall on mobile. The problem is this: Many, if not most, of the successful games on mobile are games that operate on a more simplified gameplay system. Players can hop into a game for two to ten minutes, then click off their phones and go back to their daily routine. Crashlands is much bigger and more intensive than those other games.
It is difficult to group Crashlands in with standard mobile playing styles. It is possible to jump into the game for five to ten minutes at a time, although you won’t get much accomplished. The game features some timed mechanics such as flowers regrowing in twenty real-time minutes, so these features adhere well to such a play style. Alternately, players could sit on the couch for a few hours and hit the game hard, as you might do at a computer. But it becomes tedious when playing the mobile version, as screens might be small, fingers get in the way, and gameplay can get stale after long sessions. Crashlands is such a full game that, though nothing technically suffers on the mobile platform, it might not be an ideal home.
These small complaints are easily overshadowed by the magnitude and detail in Crashlands. The art style is bright and engaging, the gameplay is excellent, and the characters of Flux and Juicebox will, without question, put some smiles on faces. Though not quite a perfect game, and perhaps not in the right home just yet, Butterscotch Shenanigans has crafted a truly enjoyable and deep masterpiece worthy of the gaming community’s attention.
Second Opinion: Rob Walton
When I first came across Crashlands I didn’t know what to really think about it. It pretty much looked to me like a Don’t Starve ripoff. You could argue that the two games are very similar, but what I found in Crashlands was miles better than I initially expected. It’s without a doubt one of the funniest games I’ve played in recent memory, next to Undertale. The banter between Flux and Juicebox kept me chuckling, and moreso with the intentionally ridiculous spellings of certain words. The second I read “The planet of Woanope” I knew this game would be a gem. That was further emphasized by things like the “Bawg” biome, or the activity of planting trees is “Furdle Durt.” But on top of such adorable and witty humor is also a fantastically entertaining and also relaxing game. The amount to do is just insane, and it’s really fun to play when you want to unwind at the end of the day. However, as Logan stated, it can be a bit overwhelming and lacking in direction. I especially dislike the quest log’s use of simply showing you the dialogue from a quest, rather than just telling you your objectives outright. I suppose it’s for immersion, but it proved to be irritating.
As previously stated, I played the PC version of the game, courtesy of an extra copy provided by Butterscotch Shenanigans. My biggest issue with this version of the game is thus: I really wish Flux was controllable with the keyboard. I realize that Crashlands tries to utilize as few buttons as possible (and it does succeed at being streamlined in a mostly good way), but having attacking and moving bound to the mouse button resulted in many, many deaths. Simply put, sometimes when I’d try to do the aforementioned “Dance of Death,” I would instead keep attacking the enemy because I was clicking just a liiiiitttle too closely to their hitboxes, resulting in my death due to not getting away from their attack in time.
Personally I feel like Crashlands is perfect for the PC, but I can certainly imagine why it would be a bit of a funny creature on Mobile. It’s definitely a game you have to sink some hours into. Even with all of that said, I feel like Crashlands is completely deserving of the 9/10 we’re giving it.
PC and iOS review copies of Crashlands were provided by Butterscotch Shenanigans for the purpose of this review