Crow Country Review – Scream Park Fun

Although there has been a relative deluge of high quality indie games released over the past few months, Crow Country has been at the top of my wishlist since I checked out the demo last year. Offering a combination of classic survival horror gameplay and PS1-influenced aesthetics, it nails both and offers a gaming experience that manages to feel innovative and nostalgic at the same time.

When you first start up Crow Country the retro aesthetic hits you with its fusion of pre-rendered backgrounds and polygonal characters. Such is the wave of nostalgia that it took me a while to realise that you can freely move the camera to examine the environments rather than being restricted to fixed angles. Once you do pick up on this full control however, you’ll quickly find that the various locations have items, secrets, and hidden details to find throughout. The visual design is excellent and interactive spots are easy to distinguish despite the initially busy artstyle.

You play as Special Agent Mara Forest, a mysterious investigator and firearms expert who may be more than they first seem. Mara is sent to investigate the derelict theme park, Crow Country, after a missing person’s report is filed for the park’s owner. Once Mara makes it to Crow Country, however, it soon becomes clear that there is something odd happening there. The narrative is revealed skilfully through a series of notes and newspaper articles scattered around the park, alongside conversations with the few survivors you meet along the way.

Beginning with a trusty pistol and a trunk full of bullets (handy for when you run out in the early game) Mara can find a range of traditional weapons to help her fight off the many strange creatures she faces. While many of these can be avoided in classic survival horror fashion, doing so can lead areas to become especially crowded and dangerous when tracking back – and tracking back is something you’ll be doing a lot of during Crow Country’s runtime. The map is relatively small but every space plays an important part with many packed with puzzles to solve and enemies to deal with.

Controls are smooth and responsive with classic and modern options available. Perhaps most crucially, the devs have thought to offer tank controls on the D-pad and modern on the analogue stick, a feature that I have long argued all survival horror games should have. That being said, the tank controls are less essential here than in fixed camera games and I mostly stuck with the modern ones. My only real criticism of the game is the lack of Resident Evil style snap aiming as it can sometimes be difficult to judge angles (although laser sights are hidden around the map for each of your weapons).

The puzzles here are refreshingly logical on the whole and offer a pleasant aspect of gameplay rather than any particular roadblock. Most revolve around finding the right item and using it in the correct spot but there are more complicated riddles which hide secrets across the map. Solving these is optional but the rewards will definitely help you out – whilst finding all of them is needed to unlock the higher completion ranks. Much like recent Resident Evil games, finishing with a better rank gives you special items to play through again, and a Hard mode is in the works for a free addition soon.

Crow Country isn’t an especially long game, but what’s here is so well designed that it’ll leave you wanting more without feeling short-changed. My initial playthrough took about four hours and then I ran through a second time in the no combat mode to hunt for the secrets I missed. I’ll be looking to aim for the Platinum by doing at least one more run to get the S rank as well so there’s a decent amount of content.

The aesthetics, densely packed environment and, at times, challenging combat go together to create a really enjoyable survival horror experience that results in Crow Country promising to be a sleeper candidate for my game of the year.
  • Nice mix of traditional and original
  • Logical puzzles
  • Interesting storyline
  • Possibly a little short
  • Lack of snap-on aiming
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Just your average old gamer with a doctorate in Renaissance literature. I can mostly be found playing RPGs, horror games, and oodles of indie titles. Just don't ask me to play a driving game.

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