Review: Crashlands (PC)

Developer: Butterscotch Shenanigans
Publisher: Butterscotch Shenanigans
Genre: Adventure, Action, RPG, Indie
Rating: T for Teen
Platforms: PC, Android, iOS
Price: $14.99

In this crafting survival adventure, you take on the role of a stranded delivery man. Desperate to deliver a package and earn his holiday bonus, he must hone the elements around him to build a craft to get home. With a quirky script and art style, Crashlands delivers on the fun as well as the laughs.

Content Guide

Violence: You have to kill creatures in order to collect crafting material. The violence is cartoony in fashion.

Positive Content: Like with a lot of survival type games, Crashlands teaches you skills in resource management. The main character is completely dedicated to completing his job: delivering a package.

Yes, you read that wrong.

Review

Crashlands is a tough game to review because I believe I played it on the wrong platform. It is a game that was optimized for mobile play on a phone or tablet. The game’s steam page even boasts about its mobility as a feature. Generally, games that were meant to be played with a finger rarely translate well to a desktop computer for reasons I’ll explain later. Crashlands suffers from these same drawbacks, but one cannot blame the game itself for that.

That being said, Crashlands is a fun game. It is well-presented, the gameplay is intuitive, and it invites creative thinking. The game is similar to titles like Don’t Starve in that it is a top-down, crafting survival adventure. A good way to describe this game would be “polished”. It doesn’t offer anything innovative or new, but it takes a strong formula and makes it its own.

The game focuses on the adventures of Flux Dabes, an intergalactic delivery man trucking a package across the galaxy. He’s interrupted, however, when an alien takes a piece of his ship, sending him spiraling down to the planet below. After crashing, it’s up to Flux and his robotic companion to build and craft enough parts in order to get back into space. That package has to be delivered, no matter what!

Me irl

The art and writing in this game go hand-in-hand and compliment each other. As you may have guessed from the passage above, Crashlands is a game full of tongue-in-cheek humor that is reminiscent of Futurama. The art style reflects this—thick lines and chibi-style character models give the sense that this game is not supposed to be taken seriously. It is a good choice and makes the game just as enjoyable to look at as it is playing it.

I like the gameplay in Crashlands. It keeps all the fun from craft survival games and cuts out all the frustrating parts. There are hundreds of different items you can craft in Crashlands, from weapons and tools to armor and housing. Collecting resources works very similarly to other games in this genre. Finding the best loot means adventuring out into the alien world and cultivating plants, minerals and animals while trying not to get killed by those same things.

What Crashlands does so well is that it streamlines the resource-gathering process. Compared to a game like Minecraft, for example, Crashlands doesn’t have a limit on inventory. You can carry as many objects as you want. There is a hot bar you can set certain items to, but the game also will automatically equip the item you need in order to harvest a specific resource. Plus, you can teleport back to your home base just by clicking it on the map.

Inventory management is for squares, dude!

There’s a huge world to explore in Crashlands, filled with different species of plants and creatures. You have a handy guide book that tracks your progress and interactions. It also serves as a crafting guide as well as a record of quests. This makes it easy to keep track of what you’re doing.

Crashlands showed me how important it is to have a good interface for a game. A keyboard can be used, but the entire game can be played using only a mouse. It is clear that it was meant to be played on a tablet or phone. When playing on a PC, it is hard to ignore this fact. Gaming experiences on an Apple or Android device are fundamentally different from experiences on a computer. Tablet games are meant to be played in quick bursts and usually involve simple quests, lower levels of difficulty, and a simpler interface.

The problem is that this does not translate to PCs well. PC games generally are more complex and aim to provide a different type of experience to its players. Crashlands on PC falls in between these two categories and gets stuck. I enjoyed playing Crashlands, but it’s not the experience I wanted on a computer. The game is not optimized to take advantage of all a desktop can offer. Why am I playing this game if I’m only using a mouse? It is not very exciting or challenging if I can play a PC game with only one hand.

At least rave night is always exciting.

If you want to play Crashlands—you should; it is a good game—I highly recommend you stay away from the PC version and get it for a mobile platform. Phones and Tablets are optimized to play Crashlands and you will probably enjoy your gaming experience more. The developers seemed to understand this and implemented the ability to sync your progress with the cloud, so you can continue the same save file on both platforms.

Code generously provided by Butterscotch Shenanigans. 

The Bottom Line

Crashlands is a game that I highly recommend with one important caveat: the game is much more fun on a mobile device than on a computer. It's both humorous and smart, with an appealing style and solid gaming mechanics.

 

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Simon Jones

God, games and good times. When not playing videogames, you can find Simon at the D&D table, doing parkour or muay thai, or napping.

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