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Crimson Skies

Moby ID: 2320

Description official description

Crimson Skies is an arcade flight simulator, set in an alternate reality in the year 1937. Based on a FASA pen-and-paper game, the player is cast as a daring rogue who flies missions for fame and fortune. The planes look like a mixture of futuristic planes and planes from WW2.

The single player missions let the player complete jobs such as finding a treasure, hijacking an experimental plane from the enemy or defending their base, a huge zeppelin.

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Credits (Windows version)

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Average score: 85% (based on 37 ratings)


Average score: 3.9 out of 5 (based on 41 ratings with 5 reviews)

A lot of fun, a lot of shooting, but the stunt flying parts can leave you frustrated

The Good
The atmosphere is perfect. Instead of fancy schmancy video briefing, Zipper wisely substituted a map with some animated icons and some photos with excellent voice acting instead. It makes you feel right in an old-fashioned radio show. Most of the movies are there in that brownish color of old movies complete with white streaks... even more authentic. You get a LOT of souvenirs from each mission, and there are plenty of enemies to shoot and planes to build or customize.

The Bad
One of the ways you "earn fame" is by stunt flying, and that means you have to fly through tight space that no one else would DARE fly into. Can you imagine taking a plane and fly through a TRAIN TUNNEL? How about fly through the arcs of a bridge, following the traffic lanes? THROUGH a hangar UNDER the zepplin already inside? If you have a steady hand this can be quite entertaining, but unfortunately I never was a very "precise" person and stunt flying proved to be extremely frustrating for me. I can kill enemy planes with no problem. It's these stunt tasks that had me completely beaten. At least the game lets you skip the mission if you failed it 3 times in a row.

The Bottom Line
Crimson Skies is a "lite" sim that dropped most of the flight model in favor of "fun", and it is a lot of fun.

Set in an alternate 1930's when the United States no longer exists. Due to the Great War, the Stock Market Crash, and the influenza epidemic, the country had broken up into multiple nations that rely on air travel, with planes and blimps replacing rail and cars as the ultimate means of transportation. Blimps can launch and recover aircrafts with landing hooks, thus allowing them plenty of range. Pirates raid commercial blimps, and mercenary airforces are often contracted to provide protection. You play Nathan Zachary, a "notorious" air pirate and noted ladies' man.

The game is your typical Wing Commander-style presentation. You see a movie to start you off in the right mood, then you're left in your "stateroom", where you have the choice of reviewing your missions, contract a new custom plane built for you (which costs money), go onto next mission, and a very nice touch: change the "momento" on your desk, which is a picture frame that contains a lot of pictures of pretty women and even your dog. As you go on more missions, you can get more pictures as keepsakes.

When you select "next mission", you get to mission briefing, which is a map with some movie icons and markings, with some pictures of notable persons or events, and a full voice narration between your persona and the rest of his "gang".

Once that's done, you can choose your plane and outfit it with the appropriate ammo. You can choose from multiple types of ammo from slug to explosive. You can also choose different types of rockets for your "hardpoints". Sorry, no guided missiles in 1930's (yet).

Then you watch an in-game cutscene of your blimp, the Pandora, and your plane inside being spun up for launch. You can choose from three different viewpoints: in-cockpit, no cockpit, or behind-plane. Most people will probably choose behind-plane as it makes stunt-flying a little easier.

The objectives will vary a lot, but mostly it involves shooting down enemy planes that attack, and sometimes it involves hijacking other planes, picking up people from trains, and more. There are even a few blimp-busting missions where you have to kill enemy blimps by hitting them when their gunports are open, or by killing their engines so they can be captured. There are even some ground attack missions where you need to take out enemy boats, ships, bases, etc.

Most of the missions are nicely designed, but quite a few have strict time-limits. If you don't kill of all the enemies in the alloted time you can't fulfill your objective, esp. on the escort missions. With some practice, it's easy enough, but the really frustrating points are the stunts.

As mentioned previously, you get souvenirs from each and every mission. In each mission there are certain stunts you can perform, mainly by flying through impossibly tight spaces like tunnels, hangars, and such. You'll hear a "camera shutter" sound, and get an extra photo for your scrapbook. However, some of the missions REQUIRE you to perform the stunts, and those can be pretty frustrating, as ANY mistake would virtually require you to start ALL OVER. Can you imagine flying through EACH of the O's in the famous HOLLYWOOD sign? You need a VERY steady hand.

However, do not despair. The game allows you to skip any mission if you fail it three times in a row.

The game has a LOT of atmosphere and is a lot of fun to play, except for the frustration levels of stunt flying and some of these "kill them faster" missions. Zipper should be commended for creating such a fine product. I just wish they would have left the stunt flying to be completely optional.

Windows · by Kasey Chang (4601) · 2002

These guys almost had it perfect!

The Good
(1) Graphics
Crimson has some of the nicest graphics that I have seen. Unlike many other flight games the landscapes and environment feel REAL. Lighting and in flight music is excellent throughout the game.

(2) Storyline
But the best and probably the biggest reason why I like this game is the story line. In Crimson Skies the US has split into 20 or more different nations. Because of this air travel has become the primary means of transporting people and cargo. Thus air piracy has become a viable and lucrative business. Oh did I mention this all takes place back in the 1940's? Granted at first I didn't buy this product when it came out because I thought that the premise was rather strange. However I recently picked up this gem for 10 bucks and boy was I surprised. They lovingly styled the graphics and sounds. The effect of this effort was to make a story line as rich as it was new. I would compare this to what Interplay did with fallout and they way they styled the game to feel 1950s. My hats off to Microsoft and Zipper interactive.

(3) gameplay
While no one would mistake crimson as a "realistic flight sim" the gameplay is fund and enjoyable. One of the nice touches of the game can be seen when you shoot one of your opponents down. Often times the plane will start to smoke and slowly fall to earth. At the same time the pilot will bail out. The missions are varied and the scrapbook that is kept is excellent.

The Bad
Well first of all some of the missions (like the race in Hollywood) can be difficult to the extreme. Fortunately you can skip a mission after 3 tries. Also it seems that the Zipper did not completely test or fix the game. Often times the music will skip and lag in between missions. Also until the patch the load time for missions could be long.

The Bottom Line
Overall the game has little to be upset about and much to enjoy.

Unlike many gamers today I enjoy a good story, and boy does Crimson provide!

Windows · by William Shawn McDonie (1130) · 2001

Indiana Jones and the Barnstormers from Hell!

The Good
Submitted for your approval: imagine a world of air flight and combat simulators that aren't really simulators of what IS... but of what we wish COULD BE. These games already exist. Lucasfilm has released several "flight/combat simulators" under its fine line of Star Wars games -- Tie Fighter and X-Wing, for example. Are these games accurate flight simulators? Hell, no... but they're loads of fun, and packed with that Star Wars flavor, which is why you bought them in the first place.

"Crimson Skies" is that kind of game. It captures the flavor of its genre and time period like no other game I've ever played. Between the stylings of the scenery, the great little "newsreel" cutscenes, and even the interface, this game has 1930s written all over it.

It is NOT a flight sim, and the planes you will fly routinely ignore various laws of physics, as well as the technology of the time, but who cares?

The Bad
The game is not without its problems. For one thing, although this is very much an "arcade style" flight sim, you are going to want a joystick to play this one; trying to handle the flight controls via the keyboard just makes you wish you had a spare pair of hands. You're also going to want to download the patch; load times make this game a yawn until that patch is installed.

The Bottom Line
It's not a HUGE bargain... at least, not unless you already HAVE a joystick... but if you're a fan of barnstorming action or the genre in general, this game is a must have.

Windows · by Dr.Bedlam (55) · 2003

[ View all 5 player reviews ]


1001 Video Games

Crimson Skies appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.


The original release of the game was extremely buggy with several engine-related problems, but worse than those was a horrible bug that erased your single player campaign whenever you started a multiplayer game. This was addressed on the very first patch, however.


During installation of the game you are treated to a radio play featuring Nathan Zachery (the player character) and the Fortune Hunters. However, on faster machines, the installation finishes before the radio play does... and cuts the drama short!


The introduction movie to Crimson Skies is done in the style of 1930s newsreel footage... complete with propaganda.


In addition to the game, Crimson Skies universe also extends to a tabletop RPG, novels a comic book line and a planned, but never made, movie from Dreamworks.


One of the features in the game is the ability to change your "momento" on the "stateroom" screen. The momento is a picture frame containing B&W photographs of a variety of subjects, mostly women, but also of your dog, yourself, and yourself with Black Swan. As you win more missions, you can get even more pictures to put inside.

You can export most items you "won" in your scrapbook to your Windows desktop. For example, when you took out the sub, you get a picture of your gang posing with a life preserver from the sub. You can export that to desktop! You can also export most of those women pictures (such as the one in the screenshots).


  • GameSpy
    • 2000 – Special Award for Sound
  • GameStar (Germany)
    • Issue 01/2001 - Best Simulation in 2000

Information also contributed by Kasey Chang and WildKard

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by DaHero.

Additional contributors: Zovni, Abi79, Patrick Bregger, FatherJack.

Game added November 8th, 2000. Last modified October 15th, 2023.