Crow Country PlayStation PS5 SFB Games

Crow Country Review (PS5) – Take Me Home, Country Roads

Crow Country PS5 Review. Say what you will about ‘90s survival horror games, but there’s always something to be said for the time when stocky polygonal characters and tank controls were en vogue and social media didn’t exist. We didn’t know how good we had it.

Crow Country PS5 Review

Take Me Home, Country Roads

Set in what can only be described as a decrepit Golden Saucer, Crow Country doesn’t harbour anything quite as horrifying as Final Fantasy VII Rebirth’s 3D Brawler mini-game but nevertheless brings a healthy dose of survivor horror-infused nostalgia to the fore. It also just so happens to be an accomplished game in its own right.

For those familiar with this particular era of survival horror on the original PlayStation, Crow Country will feel like a pair of well-worn shoes. You’ll encounter all the hallmarks of the genre; be it tank controls, save rooms, fixed-camera angles, and a tight runtime promoting repeat playthroughs in search of an improved rank.

Playing as special agent Mara Forest, you’re on the hunt for the enigmatic Edward Crow, the owner who disappeared some two years ago following the sudden closure of Crow Country amusement park.

In what’s surely an exercise in Murphy’s Law, anything that can go wrong does in fact go wrong as Mara quickly finds herself amidst a mysterious set of zombie-like creatures lurking behind every corner of the park.

Compounding the situation is of course the general setup of the park itself, which is replete with traps, hidden passageways, and the sort of key item collection you’d associate with games of similar ilk. So, in channelling its best Resident Evil impression you’re tasked with making your way around the various attractions, avoiding enemies and collecting a whole manner of trinkets in order to unlock new areas.

It really runs the whole Raccoon City gamut, in that you’ll have to find masks, batteries, keys, and even acid. But there is one crucial difference when compared to its counterpart, particularly if we talk about its police department, and it’s the fact that there is at least a bathroom to be found within Crow Country.

This general loop is, as ever, very satisfying. These types of games live or die by how cohesive and interconnected the areas are and how satisfying it feels to solve riddles in order to open up new areas without explicit direction.

Crow Country shines in this sense, with no repeat puzzles to speak of, some interesting gameplay touches, and an organic, well considered map that has you searching every nook and cranny for clues. It’s nothing too obtuse, mind, and it follows a consistent difficulty throughout.

Atmospherically, it’s on point, too. There is a sense of dread permeating the park, which is helped in a significant way by the soundtrack, which often employs the same type of soundscape found in the likes of Signalis or the more recent Alisa.

It also looks the part, with richly detailed backdrops and just the right amount of animation to help it flourish. Everything feels distinctly moody and the lighting equally plays its part.

In terms of narrative, though the main story writing can be a little on the nose without much nuance, the general throughline as well as its resolution are worthy of praise. So too is the impressive amount of exposition found within the flavour text when you interact with items or notes that are strewn across the environments.

Much of this exposition isn’t merely set dressing, and instead can be deciphered to unearth a secret – be it a new weapon or upgrade to an existing weapon – or just give you some more information on each character’s motivation.

There are some neat additions to the tried-and-true formula, too. For instance, you’ll find fortune teller kiosks within some of the locales and these can be consulted a set number of times in a playthrough to get clues as to what to do next. The first clue will maintain a degree of ambiguity but if you require another, the next will be much more explicit.

Adding to this are the scrap books that are placed within the save rooms – these collate all the staff memos you’ve found so far and are useful for determining how to solve a particular puzzle or where to trek to next based on what place is open.

You’re also able to choose between two difficulties, ‘survival horror’ or ‘exploration,’ with the latter ensuring you don’t get attacked by any of the game’s enemies and instead can focus on puzzle-solving and exploring the park in its entirety.

Similar to Signalis, Crow Country makes use of free-aiming for its shooting mechanics, albeit not within as restrictive a viewpoint as its esoteric counterpart. Pairing up this type of gameplay within fixed camera environments, however, leads to slightly mixed results.

You pull up your preferred weapon, be your standard handgun or something packing a little more heat like your shotgun, and a reticle will appear which you can freely aim at whatever target you wish. It’s functional albeit clunky, and as we’ll touch upon later though the enemy behaviour is in service of that particular mechanic, it becomes all too tempting to just circumvent enemies within each environment.

Setting the game within an amusement park affords Crow Country with a bevy of different options in terms of where it can place you without having to rigidly stick to one central theme. You’ll find yourself in the clutches of a haunted mansion, a dungeon, and even a sinister take on sea world.

There are commonalities between each, such as the ability to scour bins or give vending machines a boot in order to find supplies, such as medkits, ammo, or antidotes for poison.

Added to that are of course a number of barrels – the red variety, naturally – and electrical wall mounts that you can leverage against enemies, but they’re perhaps not as useful as you would expect due to the way in which the park’s decaying inhabitants interact with you.

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Similar to the games from which it draws inspiration such as the original Resident Evil trilogy, enemies within Crow Country very much plod around and won’t actively engage unless you are in their immediate vicinity.

Though not exactly static, each one shuffles at quite a laboured pace, and you have to get quite close to their line of sight in order to draw aggro. Due to their placement, you’ll often have to do this in order to line up many of the barrel shots.

However, the speed in which they move, matched up with the length of time you’re able to hold their attention, makes this a little tedious. Many of the barrels go a touch beyond the effort you’re willing to put in and you end up just ignoring them and even enemies altogether.

Coming back to the gameplay momentarily, there is an incongruity at play whereby the free-form nature of the aiming demands that enemies idle to a certain degree so that you can hit them more easily, but in doing so it removes much of their threat. They still look great, mind, with unsettling twitch-like animations and howls, and there is ultimately a light reason for this found out later in the game, but all too often did I find myself zooming past them onto the next puzzle.

These may seem as if they’re sizable criticisms but taken in the context of the type of game Crow Country is trying to call back to, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially considering the game’s tank controls promote the sort of kiting around enemies that has seen Resident Evil emerge as an enduring favourite in speedrunning communities.

Given the aforementioned ranking system present at the end of the game and the fact that the first playthrough clocks in at roughly four hours, that’s likely a consideration here, too.

Though appearing a touch derivative at first glance, Crow Country breaks from tradition in a number of smart ways, delivering a well-rounded, memorable experience that cements it as one of the better survival horror throwbacks of recent memory.

Crow Country releases on May 9 on PS5.

Review code kindly provided by PR.



The Final Word

Though appearing a touch derivative at first glance, Crow Country breaks from tradition in a number of smart ways, delivering a well-rounded, memorable experience that cements it as one of the better survival horror throwbacks of recent memory.