Indie Spotlight – Flynn: Son of Crimson

Jeremy Peeples5 minute read

Flynn: Son of Crimson is an exciting action platformer and one of the best looking and playing entries in quite a while. With a lush 32-bit pixel art style, it features a richly-detailed world that stands out from many Metroidvanias on the market. Flynn is more of a puzzle platformer than most Metroidvanias and stands out with not only its usage of a short-range crimson sword, but also a long-range crimson blast amid its many types of puzzles. Most games in this genre go for simple puzzles that don’t test the mettle of the player, but Flynn manages to strike a nice balance between logical puzzles that don’t take much intuition to solve and those that require a bit of finesse with controls. This can be a blessing and a curse in terms of accessibility. 

The core gameplay and controls are fairly accessible from a fine-motor perspective. There aren’t insta-kill falls, and the button layout is logical and responsive, with jumping and attacking working exactly as they should. Turbo fire would be nice to see as an option given the repetitive nature of hitting the same buttons to execute combos, but that feature isn’t included at launch. The puzzle solving uses various parts of the environment to progress. Some areas require slashing a switch and then getting whisked upwards by water, while others require doing that while also moving a large explosive barrel to properly position it to blow up in an area where it will send you upwards. Block pushing puzzles are also involved alongside disappearing block puzzles that are a bit like Mega Man, but a tad more awkward. 

With Mega Man, disappearing block puzzles tend to involve insta-kill spike areas. That isn’t the case here, but Mega Man’s puzzles are also solvable thanks to audio cues letting the player know when they can move from block to block alongside the visual cue of the block disappearing or reappearing. Here, all the player has to work with is the visual cue, which can make nailing the timing more of a matter of trial and error. This can be a bit more frustrating and hopefully an update is in the works to enable an audio cue alongside the visual ones. There are also times when the player will need to use their long-range attack (sort of like Mega Man’s blaster) to hit a part of the world to open a door to move on. Those expecting a more combat-focused adventure may be disappointed, but we found the mix of combat and puzzle-solving to be well balanced.

The usage of combat mechanics to help solve some puzzles helps quite a bit. There are various points where the puzzle is to just roll at the right time, which has several benefits to the player. If rolling is something they haven’t used a lot, it shows them how it can be done thanks to an on-screen prompt, and that’s one area that Flynn excels at. Every in-game action that is context-based is shown on-screen, letting the player know that there are only so many ways to solve the problem to move on. If the player has a barrel, there will be a prompt to drop it with up on the d-pad or throw it with a face button, so when a barrel appears, there can be only one of two ways to solve that puzzle. This cuts down quite a bit on wasted time trying to find a solution to a puzzle and makes the experience far more enjoyable.

Context-based puzzles can be a very rewarding part of a game’s design. For players who experience issues with more obtuse puzzle solving, like what’s sometimes seen in the Legend of Zelda series or games like Uncharted, it can be a barrier to enjoying the game at all, let alone making solid progress in it. Flynn manages to help a lot with this pain point by designing simple puzzles for the most part that still manage to test players, but also make the solutions somewhat apparent on-screen without being overbearing. There are some puzzles that can’t be solved this way, but they tend to be later in the game when the player has used the solution needed to solve it several times without the puzzle-solving context.

The skill tree enables the player to gain new attack options and gain power, making all of the combat-based portions feel even more purposeful. Being able to boost health helps make combat easier, but players can also turn invincibility on as well. This is a big plus, as there aren’t many major Metroidvanias that offer it. Players can also charge up both short and long-range attacks to either be executed faster or boost their power level. There are also higher-powered striking combos with Y that can be unlocked to go alongside the regular X-button combos. 

Being able to switch weapons with RB is quick as well, enabling players to go from a shorter-range but faster attack to something that’s slower but does more damage per strike. It’s a nice risk/reward system and one that works nicely when paired with the various damage modifiers. Choosing to take less damage allows players to change up how they would normally play, so someone who would usually go with faster attacks may be willing to try out slower attacks since the penalty can be either reduced or completely eliminated with invincibility turned on. This is a low-key great way to make the genre as a whole more accessible to many players, as it shows the pros and cons of going with slower weapons in one highly-accessible game from a fine-motor perspective, and the skills learned here can apply to other games that aren’t as accessible in that regard, but can make them seem less intimidating.

Flynn’s detailed graphics and bold color choices make it a great game when it comes to visual accessibility—for the most part. Most menu text features a bold blue background against bold white text, making it easy to read. Dialogue is voiceless and sets the white text against a dark grey backdrop, ensuring that text is readable as well. It’s also fairly large, but it would be nice to have text size options available. Important parts of the text are given different colored text to help differentiate them, with locations given a bright pink text and items bright green. Colorblind options would be nice to see implemented down the line, but there aren’t any color-based puzzles to solve, so the lack doesn’t hurt the core game much.

In terms of audio, deaf and hard-of-hearing players will have the same story experience as those with hearing since there isn’t any voice acting or vital information communicated through audio.

Flynn: Son of Crimson is a fantastic-playing Metroidvania that infuses many accessibility features into the core game design seamlessly. Having an invincibility option paired with a lack of insta-kill traps makes it far better than most from a fine-motor perspective, while bold color choices and detailed pixel art make it easier for the visually impaired to see the characters, their world, and experience the story through text. The lack of voice acting helps keep all players on the same playing field when it comes to experiencing the story as well. There are some improvements that could be made from an accessibility perspective, but overall, Flynn is a reasonably accessible Metroidvania experience.

This article has been transferred from DAGERSystem (now AbilityPoints). Scores, formatting, and writing style may differ from original CIPT content.

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