Crow Country Review – A Creepy Corvid Conundrum

crow country header
crow country header

CAmusement parks are always one of two things. They can be childhood memories filled with candy floss, friends, and terrible cash-draining games. Alternatively, they can be the setting for ten thousand horror movies, decrepit, abandoned, and labyrinthine. Guess which vibe this PS1-inspired game from SFB Games has gone for.

Yes, this corvid-themed ode to classic survival horror takes place in an abandoned theme park, the titular Crow Country.

Crow Country is not an entirely crow-themed place but was created by wealthy weirdo Edward Crow in 1988. Now it’s 1990, and Crow has disappeared following a deluge of bizarre incidents at the park. You play as Mara Forest, an apparent police investigator on the case. Mara rolls up to the abandoned park’s locked gates. Trash and debris are scattered around, and another car sits abandoned nearby. It’s time to get on this wild ride.

Crow Country Is An Enjoyable Take On The PS1 Survival Horror Genre

Crow Country outside the park
Image Credit: SFB Games.

As with any good early survival horror game, things start slowly. The park’s entrance area offers helpful tutorials via posters and teaches you to check your surroundings for supplies THOROUGHLY. There’s no little gleam to alert you to the presence of an item. It’s up to you to look in every nook and cranny for ammo, antidotes, and various other supplies. I already do this in every game I play. I refuse to miss things; I see everything.

Except that, I missed stuff out by my car at first because I didn’t realize just how sneakily things could be hidden. Luckily, you will return to your car throughout the game because Mara has a seemingly endless supply of handgun ammo in her trunk. There are also little cloches around the park that have items in but will cost a bullet, so it’s up to you to decide if they are worth it.

Do You Embrace The Horror Or Sit Back and Explore?

Now, before I go into more detail, you can experience Crow Country in two ways. When you start a new game, you can choose whether to play in Survival Horror or Exploration modes. Exploration mode offers the story without as much danger. I opted for survival mode to encounter whatever horrors the park held. Luckily for me, there are horrors. Oh, such horrors! Also, in true PS1 survival horror style, you can’t just save your game whenever you want. As in Resident Evil, there are safe rooms where you can stare into a fire and save your progress. There aren’t many, and you will be backtracking to them frequently.

Crow Country spindly man
Image Credit: SFB Games.

Wandering through the park, I was accompanied by a creepy cacophony of distorted and jaunty theme park music and strange, distant groans. That’s probably fine and an intended part of the ambiance. It’s an odd choice, but it’s definitely recorded and not actual almost sub-human groans. It’s very easy in games like this, especially when anticipating a threat, to plow straight ahead. If you do this, you will miss many, many things. Some people won’t need this reminder, but some will. [Editor’s Note: I will].

I had to put myself in survival horror mode because I haven’t played many games in the genre in the last few years.

Crow Country’s Environments Are Top Notch

The environment does a lot of storytelling. There are magazine pages stuck to the walls that give you gameplay pointers like what buttons do what, helpful hints about items, and tips like “humanoid enemies take more damage from headshots.” Wait, what was that about humanoid enemies? Probably nothing, just instructions for some kind of carnival game. There are also staff memos stapled to the walls all over the place, giving clues to environmental puzzles, locked areas, and bits of lore that could help you uncover what has happened or is still happening.

Crow Country strange note
Image Credit: SFB Games.

The park is split up into different themed areas. There’s a fairy forest, a spooky Haunted Mansion, an undersea kingdom, and a creepy room with a hole drilled into the earth emitting mournful wails. Don’t worry about that last one; it’s perfectly fine, and the flamethrower mounted on a tripod facing the hole is purely decorative. There are also many secrets behind the scenes and a labyrinth of utility corridors. Does that wall panel look a little strange to you? Maybe check it out.

Crow Country Offers The Best, and Some of the Worst, of Old-School Survival Horror

Of course, there’s much more going on here than the sudden disappearance of a theme park owner. Wandering through the park, you will find newspapers and letters. One newspaper tells of a 15-year-old girl who was injured at the park and contracted a strange medication-resistant bacterial infection. Some notes talk of strange roots, others discuss the appearance of “Guests,” and they don’t seem to refer to regular theme park customers. It won’t be long before you encounter some of these “Guests.”

Crow Country meat man
Image Credit: SFB Games.

What initially seems to be a deserted park is actually teeming with life. Of course, there’s no way to know exactly what this life is early on. Sure, some of the things are vaguely people-shaped, but they are also twisted meaty lumps, occasionally spiky, sometimes blobby, and always nasty. Whenever you first enter an area, it will be free of freaks, but from then on, whenever you return, there will be some hideous monsters to take down.

If you are terminally terrible at aiming, like me, it will take many, many bullets to kill them. Alternatively, you can leg it around them, but that’s not a foolproof method. The creatures remind me of the monsters in Deadly Premonition, all jerky movements and discordant moaning. This is not a criticism. Deadly Premonition is a legendary good/bad game.

This Is A True Love Letter to the PS1 Era

SFB Games have perfectly captured the feeling of a PS1-era survival horror game. The graphics, soundtrack, environmental puzzles, and the gradual reveal of the full plot details all capture the essence of old-school survival horror. It doesn’t go as far as tank controls, which is only good because we have evolved as a society. Tank controls are the bane of all classic games, anyway. There is also a fair amount of backtracking involved. Almost anything you do is a one-step forward, two-steps back scenario, unlocking one area leads you to something that will unlock something three areas back.

Crow Country manages to mostly pull this off without it becoming tedious, although even with a map, I found it quite easy to get turned around. That said, the puzzles are all generally relatively easy to decipher. That is saying something comes from me, a person frequently defeated by logic.

Crow Country now leaving
Image Credit: SFB Games.

Wrapping Up

Crow Country feels authentic to the era it is paying homage to. One of my first vivid video game memories is Resident Evil, which certainly has the same atmosphere. While the scares aren’t as scary as I expected, it is very stressful when a bunch of freaks appear out of nowhere and take a full clip of ammo each to down. Some of that might be on my aim, though. It’s an engrossing story that is paced well, and while some aspects were telegraphed very obviously, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story or finding out how things would be revealed. There’s an ocean of PS1 survival horror game homages around right now, but if you’re looking for a true retro recreation, Crow Country is for you.

Crow Country is out May 9 on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PS5.

crow country header
Crow Country Review – A Creepy Corvid Conundrum
Crow Country offers the best, and some of the worst, of the old-school PS1 survival horror games.
A faithful but fresh take on PS1-era survival horror.
Interesting setting and plot.
Perfect creepy environment and sound design.
Puzzles that are testing but not brain-breaking.
Occasionally predictable.
Easy to get lost, even with a map.
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Written by Emma Oakman

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