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Crow Country review

Crow Country Review

Comfort Food Horror
by Marcus Stewart on May 08, 2024 at 08:00 AM
Reviewed on PlayStation 5
Also on Xbox Series X/S, PC
Publisher SFB Games
Developer SFB Games
Rating Teen

The Resident Evil series has redefined and refined survival horror in recent years, arguably single-handedly. However, as the venerable series continues to push the genre forward, a growing number of indie games are looking back to survival horror’s late ‘90s heyday for inspiration. Crow Country joins those ranks, offering a respectable nostalgic homage to the past. Veterans won’t encounter anything they haven’t seen, but the experience is comforting in its spooky familiarity.  

Developer SFB Games clearly understood its self-imposed assignment. Crow Country’s grainy, low-polygonal presentation faithfully evokes the PS1/N64 era while still establishing a unique charm, thanks to its doll-esque character designs. Thankfully, the studio stops short of replicating more archaic elements like the static camera angles of the time, opting for a much preferred 360-degree camera and free movement instead of tank controls. The presentation adds a nostalgic sinisterness to the game’s setting, a derelict amusement park called Crow Country. 

As agent Mara Forest, you arrive in search of the park’s missing owner, Edward Crow, and quickly find it overrun by grotesque monsters of an unknown origin. Despite the game’s eerie vibes, scaredy cats shouldn’t fret; Crow Country isn’t anywhere near as terrifying as its Silent Hill/Resident Evil influences. That may be disappointing to horror aficionados – I count myself among them – but I didn’t mind. Outside of a few decent jump scares, the game is more about establishing an intriguing, oppressive mood, and that’s enough for me. The creatures look appropriately gross and unsettling despite having a strange cutesy charm due to the art direction. The writing has a good sense of humor that contrasts nicely with an otherwise dark and generally enjoyable mystery highlighted by a cool story twist. 

Blasting monsters with various firearms, such as a pistol, shotgun, and, if you search well enough, a magnum, feels adequate, and attachable laser sights add a contemporary assist. Evading enemies to conserve ammo is relatively easy, and the game is generous about keeping your clips full. This speaks to Crow Country’s wide approachability. It’s not challenging in regards to combat and inventory management, making it a great introduction to the genre for newcomers or a good option those wanting a lighter take on a typically tough gameplay style.

Another aspect in which SFB Games commits to Crow Country’s old-school approach is exploration and puzzle-solving. The game’s elaborate puzzles are generally clever and well-designed, but the real challenge is keeping track of over two dozen notes containing hints or solutions. That’s because you can only view these messages in save rooms, which creates a lot of backtracking to double-check an employee memo. The game’s condensed level design means a save room usually isn’t too far away, but running around did feel less convenient as my notebook expanded. To mitigate this, expect to jot down notes or take photos of clues with your phone. 


Additionally, intentionally cluttered environments easily hide useful items and clues, meaning it’s easy to miss things. Expect to hug the walls of every room to thoroughly comb them of their interactable elements (though the game does track how many secrets you find). As a long-time fan of the genre, I didn’t mind this nostalgic approach, and it never became a true hindrance. Consider this less a critique and more of a PSA to those hoping for a streamlined experience. 

Speaking of save rooms, the game’s intentional lack of autosaves means dying results in losing progress between your last visits. I was burned by this initially, having died before reaching the first save room and replaying the first 20 minutes. Again, your tolerance will vary; losing chunks of progress rarely becomes an issue if you’re diligent about saving. But if you’d rather not deal with that, Crow Country may be too faithfully retro for you. 

As reductive as it sounds, when it comes to delivering a classic survival horror experience, Crow Country is a good “one of those.” Familiar elements and tropes are well executed, and the succinct runtime of five to six hours is perfect for its smaller scope. I had fun reliving the genre’s golden years through Crow Country’s eyes; playing it feels like relaxing under a warm, blood-stained blanket. 

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Crow Country

PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PC
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