Crow Country review for PC, PS5, Xbox Series X

Platform: PC
Platform: PS5, Xbox Series X
Publisher: SFB Games
Developer: SFB Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

I should admit up front that I played Crow Country completely the wrong way. It’s a survival horror game that gives you the option of playing a story-focused mode with no enemies and no death and…yeah, I jumped on that almost immediately. As someone who’s a huge wuss about horror at the best of times, I lasted about 20 minutes playing the game in survival mode, at which point I started over when I realized I was basically camped out in the main hallway, unwilling to try any of the rooms that branched out from it because I knew a few of them contained monsters that were going to kill me and I didn’t want to start over from scratch.

There are, I think, two ways to take this.

The first way is that it demonstrates just how creepy Crow Country is. It’s a game that aims to recreate the feeling of early PS1 horror, and it unquestionably succeeds. Even playing it on the story-focused mode, the abandoned theme park setting provides ample opportunity for all kinds of unsettling discoveries, whether it’s broken robots, or bizarre rides, or random people appearing out of nowhere. And when you play it as it’s meant to be played, as survival horror, it’s even creepier – having faceless robots lurch toward you as you frantically empty your gun into them can’t not be scary, you know?

But it also shows that Crow Country is confident in its ability to deliver a compelling scary narrative, whether you’re fighting off monsters or simply walking through the theme park, uncovering the story of what happened and why the theme park mysteriously closed. The game’s world is well-imagined, and it’ll keep you on the edge of your seat no matter how you play it.

It all works well because the game does so many things right, starting with its visuals. Crow Country looks came straight out of the early ‘90s, to the point that the game feels like it should be played on a bulky CRT TV. We’ve reached a point in gaming nostalgia where plenty of developers are now trying to recreate the feeling of the first PlayStation, but few do it as well as this game does.

Just because Crow Country borrows heavily from the era, though, doesn’t mean it’s entirely indebted to it. For starters, you can rotate the camera a full 360 degrees, and your character can move relatively smoothly in all directions. While the game might feel more faithful to its influences if you had characters that moved with tank controls or minimal visibility of the world around you, it would also make it less enjoyable for most people, so it’s nice to see the developers understand we’ve had 30 years of improvements.

Crow Country also features some truly outstanding puzzles that tie well into the story. As I noted briefly above, the game’s world is richly imagined, and it rewards you for searching every corner and nook and cranny to find parts of its lore. There are plenty of puzzle hints scattered everywhere, and the game makes it possible to go back and review what you’ve picked up, which means that you never feel like you’re wasting time exploring and looking at things. The game respects your time, which is always a plus.

Its biggest plus, though, is it that it’s just an outstanding game. Crow Country is clearly influenced by some of the scariest games of the ‘90s, but it’s good enough that it can be enjoyed today even if you never played those games the first time around (or even if you’re generally too much of a scaredy cat to play them).

SFB Games provided us with a Crow Country PC code for review purposes.

Score: 8.5