Carnival Crow

In recent years there has been a resurgence of aesthetics in video games that hearken back to other eras. This retro throwback, whether it's two-dimensional sprites or low-resolution polygons, is seen across all genres. In horror games, the approach attempted belongs mainly to the second category. The creators make the games in such a way that they resemble something we might have played on the first Sony PlayStation, with varying results. The examples are numerous: Lost in Vivo, No one lives under the lighthouse, Alisa, Back in 1995, Signalis, etc.

Crow Country, which we're going to examine in this review, doesn't just fulfill its obligation to the die-hard fans by offering them a bit of nostalgia and then disappearing into the sea of similar titles available on Steam. The visuals, if anything, draw one's attention. But it's a number of elements that come from a modern take on the horror genre, and at the same time the limited use of clichés (whether we're talking about design or story) that made us stick around until the end.

That's we would like to know, too...

It's 1990. Crow Country is the titular amusement park where our story takes place. After a serious accident happened to a young girl there two years earlier, sending her to the hospital, it has been closed and its owner, Edward Crow, has mysteriously vanished. We take on the role of Mara Forest, the police officer assigned to solve his disappearance case. Not wanting to give anything away about the plot, I will say that it unfolds seamlessly, with some nice twists (and an underlying message that we don't usually see in this type of game).

Credit has to be given for this, as the game could easily have gone the route of psychological horror or the hackneyed concept of an experiment gone wrong. Instead we get a fresh story for a game that is supposedly trying to tap into nostalgia, and that could have worked against it. The narrative is told in keeping with the standards of the category, with the plot unraveling through the various notes we find and the dialogue with the few characters we meet in the abandoned amusement park. Although Crow Country initially gives the impression of a "cute" game, gradually the playful, almost fairytale-like atmosphere is ruptured and the darkness that lurks underneath emerges from the cracks.


This is achieved both visually and through the various hostile creatures that become more and more repulsive the closer we get to discovering the truth. Excellent work has been done on these and we will encounter a wide range of them. The same cannot be said, unfortunately, for the game's bosses, which for a Survival Horror game are extremely few. In terms of the weaponry that will be used in their elimination, we won't find any unconventional ones. We can, however, aim freely, which is unusual given the perspective. It goes without saying that their weak points such as the head take more damage, and this also depends on the distance between us and them.

You can't get more Resident Evil than this...

Don't be misled by the pictures: it may look like the game is viewed from an isometric viewpoint, but the camera can be rotated freely! This not only makes it easier to aim, but at the same time we can rotate it to spot objects, enemies, traps, etc. that would not be visible ito react in time, from certain angles. And speaking of traps, I urge caution as in Crow Country we will find quite a few. Fortunately we can use them against our opponents, as well as some other objects in the environment such as the almost tropey explosive barrels.

Crow Country in general is not a difficult game, there is even an option that completely removes any hazards and can be played as an atmospheric puzzle game! As a horror game, it's not the scariest thing we've seen either. There were moments that made us jump out of our seats, but the low aggro of the monsters combined with their slow movements and adequate ammo (on normal) make it an ideal experience for players who can't handle prolonged tension or soul crushing experiences. The challenge of the title lies more in the fact that new, usually stronger enemies appear as you progress - be warned - not replacing the previous ones, as was the case for examle in the early Resident Evil titles, but on top of them. Therefore, you shouldn't be too reserved about your resources and do occasional "sweeps" so that you have some safe zones.

Watch out for the trap on the left! Even in the most unlikely places, you should carefully observe the area around you.

The other element that elevates the challenge, and the one with the most important role in it, is the game's various puzzles. Most of them require the use of objects and/or pulling levers-operating machinery in the environment and they exhibit outstanding variety. In some the hints we need are nearby, while in others we have to remember clues we saw in another place. There's a lot of quality work done in this regard, comparable to what we saw in Tormented Souls. Even more so, when we realize that most of the puzzles would fit in this place right in. The map of Crow Country, while notably well-designed, is not particularly large. However, both the constant backtracking for clues and the gradual access to new areas and the several optional puzzles that reward you with weapon upgrades etc. increase the game's length (somewhere around 7-8 hours if you want to discover everything).

Solving one of the game's puzzles.

On the visual side of things, a proper effort has been made to render early 3d graphics so that it hits the right nostalgic notes. Crow Country brings to mind games of the first PlayStation era, with its blocky textures and limited draw distance. The characters, especially the humanoid ones are reminiscent of their Final Fantasy VII counterparts (outside of combat) who had something between proper body proportions and chibi design. Each area has its own theme (makes sense, too), so we won't see environments that keep repeating. The grain filter is relatively strong without being too distracting, and at the same time serves to cover up any imperfections and enhance the atmosphere of the game. In the sound department, things go from... good to worse: the light-hearted amusement park tunes gradually give way to pitch-black ambient tracks. There is absolute consistency with the change of emotions brought to the player, from the joy that once gave a place such as this to the loneliness currently permeating it .

From our visit to Crow Country's "haunted mansion". You can't have an amusement park without a House of Horror!

Crow Country looks like a cd game that was pulled out of the attic where it was stashed in 1996-97. The quality of life additions (lack of limited inventory, multiple difficulty levels etc.) combined with a well executed script, beautiful puzzles and a haunting atmosphere contribute to a great end result. Humorous references alternate with gruesome scenery, giving the title its own identity and making it more than just a typical trip to the past. Highly recommended to old and new players of the genre.

Go to discussion...

RATING - 83%


Crow Country combines well-arranged puzzles, evocative atmosphere and an interesting plot, in a whole that goes beyond cozy nostalgia. And considering that it's primarily the work of one person, it's an accomplishment.

Παναγιώτης Μητράκης

As a kid of the 80's, he began his journey into gaming with coin-ops and the classic Game Boy. He found some respite with his beloved SNES and got into PC gaming in 1998, with landmark games like Half-Life and Baldur's Gate. He doesn't steer clear of (almost) any genre but has a predilection for RPGs and survival horror and tries to introduce others to Silent Hill, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and the creations of Looking Glass and Obsidian.

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