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Crow Country Review: A Charming Retrospective of 90’s Survival Horror

Platform(s): PC (version reviewed), PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S
Genre: Survival horror, Retro, Story Rich, Puzzle, Third-Person Shooter

It feels like ages ago since I’ve played games on the PlayStation 1. The anticipation that arises as you insert the CD into the main console, fearful of encountering a hiccup during the loading process. Despite the subpar graphics, there was something captivating about stepping into a different realm while holding the controller. The years that followed have witnessed significant advancements in the gaming industry, with the advent of 3D graphics, real-time action, and online multiplayer, just to name a few.

When you think the good ol’ PS1 days are gone, well this retro-inspired survival horror game shows that you don’t need to plug in the PlayStation 1 to enjoy the retro elements, all you need is to experience the thrill of it all in SFB Games’ Crow Country.

Into The Decayed Unknown

In this game, you play as Mara Forest, an agent tasked with investigating an abandoned eerie theme park to uncover clues and answers regarding the mysterious disappearance of the park’s owner, Edward Crow. As Mara delves deeper into the decaying park, she must brace herself against the eerie creatures of the night while unravelling the sinister plot that unfolds before her.

The storyline is filled with mystery, leaving players unsure of what to expect next. The encounters with non-player characters (NPCs) are unpredictable and the dark areas, add to the overall eerie atmosphere. The game occasionally delivers decent jump scares that enhance the suspense. Plus, the lush pre-rendered backgrounds, reminiscent of Final Fantasy VII, create a hauntingly beautiful backdrop. Unlike their predecessors, these environments are not merely static but fully interactive. Developer SFB Games has shown remarkable love and passion for this particular era of game design, breathing new life into these old but beloved visuals.

Crow Country may not be quite as terrifying as its Silent Hill/Resident Evil influences, but the gameplay and overall experience make up for it. What truly appeals to me is the intriguing mystery and the rich story twist that keeps things interesting. The writing also boasts a good sense of humour, providing a stark contrast to the otherwise dark and foreboding atmosphere.

One of the key aspects of any survival horror game is the need to stock up on essential supplies. Crow Country follows this tradition, giving players the task of finding med kits, weapons, ammo, and tools to aid their progress. One pleasant surprise is that these areas are often equipped with fairly abundant med kits and ammo. However, you’ll also find seemingly random items such as apple cores and banana peels, which I’m not quite sure are of much use.

One of the weapons you’ll be equipped with is a handgun, which is conveniently found in the trunk of your car. The shotgun, on the other hand, takes a bit longer to earn, requiring you to solve puzzles after one another before finally gaining access to it. It’s a satisfying reward for dedicated players.

Knee-deep Enigma

When it comes to puzzles, the gameplay is steep with them, but don’t take this the wrong way. You’re not bombarded with puzzles right from the start. The game’s elaborate puzzles are generally clever and well-designed, but the main challenge is keeping track of over two dozen notes containing hints or solutions. These hints come in staff memos, which are easily spotted. There are even notebooks, letters, books, and even posters that can help or give hints to solve the area or room you’ve found. Once you find the answer, you’ll have to look for either tools or keys to unlock certain doors, safes, or machines. Don’t expect boss fights or hordes of monsters attacking you at any moment.

The game features several action-oriented situations where players can engage in combat with one or two monsters at a time or utilize grenades to disintegrate them. Exploration plays a significant role in the game, as it goes hand in hand with the puzzle elements.

Throughout the entire game, players must explore every nook and cranny of Crow Country. Each location is equipped with a map that enables easy navigation. A unique feature is that a circle is drawn to surround the map, indicating that the puzzle associated with the area has not yet been solved. This serves as a helpful indicator for players to backtrack if necessary. The game also provides players with safe rooms that serve as a haven and save points. These safe rooms often contain a firepit, allowing players to manually save their progress in case of any mishaps.

Speaking of save rooms, the game’s intentional lack of autosaves means dying results in losing progress between your last visits. Having died before reaching the first save room and needing to replay the first 20 minutes. There are no clues given as to where you can save. For those who prefer not to deal with losing chunks of progress, Crow Country may be too faithfully retro.

When it comes to retro survival horror, Crow Country hawks with pride and delivers a great experience. The runtime of six to seven hours is perfect for its small scope. The visuals and sound are well-crafted and the game mechanics are intuitive. Like a well-crafted novel, taking its time to develop the plot and draw players into its world. Instead of relying on long cutscenes or complex side quests, Crow Country focuses on creating a slow, immersive journey that pays off in the end.

 

Pros

  • Intriguing storyline.
  • Elaborate and well design puzzles.
  • A well-crafted combination of sound and visuals.
  • Game mechanics are easy to understand.

Cons

  • No autosave options.
  • Not-so-decent jump scares.

 

Final Score: 80/100

Review copy provided by publisher.

 

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Comment(2)

  1. Crow Country’s Creative Director Explores Classic Survival Horror and Experiments with Art Direction | Kakuchopurei

    June 7, 2024 at 11:30 am

    […] Crow Country, a game that harkens back to the era of PS1, was met with widespread critical acclaim upon its release on May 9 across PlayStation, Xbox, and PC platforms. This fresh offering from SFB Games casts players as special agent Mara Forest, tasked with probing the secrets of a forsaken, spine-chilling theme park. […]

  2. Crow Country Official Soundtrack Now Available on Two Major Platforms | Kakuchopurei

    June 14, 2024 at 4:26 pm

    […] dive deeper into Crow Country’s riveting experience, check out our written review. We even had the chance to interview Crow Country’s creative director, Adam Vian, about the […]

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