Coming from those at Butterscotch Shenanigans is Crashlands; one of those games that seems to almost defy categorisation, as it has aspects of many different genres built in. It’s been around on Steam since 2016, and on mobiles for almost as long, but it’s now come to the Xbox One and Xbox Series X. Does that mean we should give it the time of day?
We’ll address the story first of all. Flux, the character we play as, and Juicebox, our trusty robot sidekick, work as intergalactic delivery people, transporting packages to other worlds. Now, as you’d expect, there’s not a lot to do when the ship they call home is warping between planets, but this all changes one fateful day. Snatched from their warp bubble by a floating head called Hewgodooko, as they pass the planet Woanope their ship is destroyed by Hewgodooko, and they have to evacuate, get into an escape pod, and then crash land on the planet below. The name of the game is extremely apt. Now, as the ship is a smouldering ruin around them, the chances of delivering the packages on time would seem to be slim, and it is here where the adventure begins. Flux and Juicebox need to survive, build and contact their company for rescue, and this is how Crashlands opens.
It’s also here that the first of the many genres of Crashlands appears, that of resource gathering. As you look around the immediate area of your crash, you’ll find various plants, trees and such like dotted about; you can destroy these to gather the essential materials that you will need. This cleverly feeds into the second genre – that of crafting and building. In order to chop down trees, you’ll need a bladed implement, and luckily Juicebox can give you a schematic to be able to make one. A nice touch, when looking at items that you can build, is the ability to track what resources you need in order to make it. This is displayed on the top right of the screen, and shows what you still need to gather in red, and items you have enough of in green, making it easy to see where you are up to for the task in hand. This is further helped by being able to teleport back to your home, or to any of the telepads that you find in the field in a snap, allowing pick-up and building of items a cinch; it is then as easy as selecting them in the crafting screen and pressing A.
Items like armour and weapons, that you can craft later on as progression is found in Crashlands, come in various different qualities, so if you make a chest plate, for instance, and it comes out as a white item, it’s worth breaking it down and retrying, as the quality goes all the way up to orange for legendary gear, via blue and purple in the accepted gear ranking scale of video games. Sometimes plants and creatures you defeat also give you schematics, so it’s worth clobbering everything you see.
Base building is the next on Flux’s tick list, and you start, as is usual in construction games, from the floor upwards. Laying down flooring will stop creatures burrowing up and attacking, and building walls will keep the contents of your base safe. This is where a little Minecraft influence creeps in, as you have to build stations that will let you craft better stuff, like a saw table to enable you to work in wood, or a skinnery to turn Wompit hide to armour, and so on. Very much a positive point with Crashlands is that your inventory is infinite, so there is no limitation to the amount of stuff you can collect while on your travels, exploring the place. It’s nice that there is no need to go dropping some stuff to pick up other things.
As you go on, and get better gear, you can then start to combat the local fauna, and this opens up new streams of crafting. Combat is a bit of an oddity in Crashlands, with some mechanics that are a tad weird when you first start. You see, when you have highlighted an item, be it a tree or an enemy, a simple press of the A button will send Flux scurrying over to batter it. Now, with a tree, that’s fine, as to almost paraphrase the great Bolo Yeung – “Tree… not hit back!”. Enemy creatures however do, and if you move Flux to avoid the attack, he/she seems to then lose any interest in carrying on the fight until you lock on and press A again. The first creatures you’ll kill are those Wompits I hinted at earlier – they attack by jumping into the air and actioning an AoE attack, so you have to move out of the area, acquire a lock, run in, smack them up a little, run out of the area and repeat. It makes fighting the stronger named enemies a bit of a challenge, but overall it works. Luckily, healing items (assuming you’ve picked some up, like Baconweed) are mapped to the right trigger, so healing mid-fight is pretty straight forward.
There are other sentient races to meet as you explore Crashlands, and as you’d expect from first contact on an alien world, they all want you to take on missions for them. These vary from simple “Batter the baddies” missions (although some of the named foes you’ll find are extremely strong and incredibly violent), all the way to hunting down lost relics – finding a ring that was misplaced, for example. These missions invariably reward you with more stuff, but there are some that need to be taken in for story progress. However, these do generally fit in with the whole Explore > Brawl > Gather > Explore gameplay loop that Crashlands enjoys, and so don’t ever outstay their welcome.
Last but by no means least is Crashlands’ take on Pokemon – in a way. As you defeat creatures, every now and then one of them will drop an egg. If you pick this egg up, and take it home and build an incubator, the creature that hatches becomes your friend and can fight by your side. My first critter was a little Wompit I called Dave, and me and Dave have explored a lot of the wilderness together.
There’s a lot going on in Crashlands in terms of gameplay mechanics, and for the most part it all works well. Visually however it’s all very simple, running a top-down perspective canted at a slight angle, to ensure that the view of what’s happening is good. These visuals mean that Flux has a hilarious walk, swinging their arms vigorously like they are skiing, but it does the job intended. The creatures you will go up against are pretty imaginative too – in fact the game as a whole is bright and pretty, and generally a joy to behold. This is replicated in the audio, with the sound again being perfectly passable, with roars from enraged Wompits and the crunch as trees topple all well-represented. It’s nice that Crashlands looks very colourful, and moves at a fair old pace, with no slowdown in sight.
Crashlands by Butterscotch Shenanigans is one of those rare games where a whole stack of ideas has been thrown into the mix, yet the result is a beautiful blend rather than a stodgy mess. The story isn’t the strongest, but the wish to see what Flux can build next, the need to gear up to beat a boss, the exploring, and the taming of creatures all just works. It has been a pleasure to play and there is most certainly a lot of game here for the money. In fact, it’s easy to recommend Crashlands to anyone looking for something just that little bit different.