Crow Country review: my first Resident Evil (complimentary)


Tangle Tower was a weird and cute point and click murder mystery set in a big weird tower full of colourful characters, so what better way for the devs to fill time before the sequel comes out than by making a creepy retro survival horror set in a regional theme park? Crow Country is like if Resident Evil was made out of Duplo: more chunky, less threatening, and easier than playing with a fully motorised K’Nex ferris wheel, but darn it, it’s still a good time.

A large part of of the charm of Crow Country is the setting. It’s 1990, and you play as Mara Forest, investigating the titular theme park, which closed abruptly just two years ago. Mara is there to find out what’s what, exploring the largely abandoned and generally sinister themed areas of the park for clues. It’s the sort of weird, independent theme park you get in small towns or areas without much else going on, with an underwater zone, a fairy forest, and a kind of Halloween town with a haunted mansion. Crow Country’s janky animatronics and ill-advised crow theming is really well-observed; the set dressing is fantastic and sinister even before weirdly-jointed stick monsters and piles of animate gooo with tombstone teeth start popping up. Hence the Resident Evil comparison.

It’s also fuzzy, like you’re playing the game via a VHS, and has slightly clunky-but-adorable third-person shooting controls – exploration and paying attention is suggested, because that way you can find a scope and a shotgun, for better aiming and more destruction, respectively. The enemies can be bullet spongey and do a bunch of damage, but they’re also easy to avoid – though, if you don’t prune an area a bit when you have the chance, or ignore the mini-boss monster made of spikes you spot skulking around, then you’ll have a harder time later on, as the monsters are prone to multiply.

Luckily the survival part of Crow Country is pretty easy. You need bandages and medkits for your health (Mara can only really take a few hits, and she’ll start limping around in a kind of passive aggressive way when she’s really hurt), bullets for your handgun and shogun shells for the shotgun, and antidotes for when the environment starts producing poison traps. Grenades come in very handy, too. But honestly, if you just keep an eye out there are a lot of all of them knocking around. You can only save in certain places, but every safe room has a stash of stuff you can use, and you usually get something from rifling through bins or kicking a drinks machine. When you add jars and boxes, some handy explosive barrels, and the fact that some sort of NRA-affiliated Father Christmas seems to have to just leave boxes of bullets around a theme park, you don’t really end up on the thin end of the resource wedge at any point.

Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/SFB Games

part of the map in Crow Country

The inventory screen in Crow Country, also showing Mara's health

Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/SFB Games

That being the case, there isn’t a lot of threat in the same way there is when, for example, a bunch of zombie dogs suddenly jump through a two-way mirror, or whatever it is you nerds like, so it might disappoint you if you want a real survival horror challenge. Still, Crow Country has a powerfully creepsome atmosphere. The story of the park unfolds out of chronological order, as you find employee notes, newspaper clippings, and run into the occasional foolhardy NPC who tells you a little bit more. It involves secret dig sites, experiments, and strange powers of which we do not ken – it’d be a banger three part Doctor Who episode in the Sylvester McCoy era, back when he was fighting sea vampires alongside Soviets.

Mara talks to a police officer who has unwisely come to investigate the park in Crow Country
Safety on
Crow Country has an Exploration Mode that means you don’t have to worry about all the grim monsters. If you liked the sound of the grim vibe and puzzles but don’t fancy getting your arm chewed off by a fleshlump zombie, Crow Country has you covered! There’s also a fortune teller crow that will give you a honking great clue on how to solve the next puzzle you need (limited to ten uses).Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/SFB Games

The park itself unfolds out of order as well, with a labyrinthine map connected with underground tunnels and employee service doors that you unlock by solving multi-part puzzles. These themselves are muddled up, too. You often find the answer to a puzzle before you find the puzzle itself, like the employee note that tells you which aquatic animals you have to shoot to get access to the shotgun, or one that complains about the dinner show in the undersea-themed restaurant being broken because someone nicked the trident. The map helpfully circles rooms with a puzzle you haven’t solved yet, which is a nice touch.

The answers to puzzles are similarly straightforward, but require enough thinking and noticing that you feel triumphant for figuring them out: “Aha, the ruby I can use to fix the swan game is hidden behind a portrait in the haunted house, and then I can get the machine chain to turn on the crane in the dig site!” And while you’re backtracking and opening up shortcuts, the danger around the park escalates, with surprise attacks from worms coming out of walls, spike traps hanging from the ceiling, and more memorable set pieces to contend with. A sequence in a grim maze was a particular favourite, as were the phone calls I kept getting from park owner Edward Crow.

So while it’s a less difficult take on a Resident Evil-ish formula, I don’t think it’s less good. The emphasis is more on the puzzles than the survival, but the attention to detail in the sound design, the excellent planning of the map, and the creepy story and setting, are accompanied with a wink at the camera now and then that really put a shine on Crow Country. It’s knowing as well as very good, and I had an excellent time at Crow Country (though would not give it a recommend on trip advisor if you’re after a family holiday).

This review is based on a copy of the game provided by the developer.


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