Crow Country review: The best retro Resident Evil

Crow Country is heavily inspired by PS1 classics, and it's fantastic.
SFB Games

I don’t like nostalgia bait. Don’t get me wrong, I love nostalgia, and as a ‘90s kid, there’s something about a good CRT filter that just hits. But retro games weren’t good because they were 240p and looked like they’d been fed through a low-quality Zoom stream. It doesn’t matter how authentic or immersive your retro-aesthetic indie game is – I like older games because they were brilliant, not because of how they looked. Luckily, Crow Country is fantastic with or without a filter.

Inspired by the visuals of Final Fantasy 7 and the gameplay of the original Resident Evil, Crow Country is a third-person survival horror game. The Resident Evil inspiration is heavy; while you won’t be dealing with fixed camera angles, you can’t change the camera height or the distance from the player, only allowing you to rotate – perfect for hiding objects. The shooting is a bit more modern, mind, and while the controls are similar to the original RE, you control exactly where you aim, and can even find Resident Evil 4-style laser sights.

Just like how not all Resident Evil games take place in a house, Crow Country isn’t actually a country – it’s a theme park, named after founder Edward Crow. The park was shut down a couple of years before protagonist and investigator Mara Forest’s arrival after a mysterious creature attacked a customer.

There are dozens of puzzles to find and complete.
There are dozens of puzzles to find and complete. / SFB Games

As you might expect from a Resident Evil-like, there is a litany of locked doors, requiring a selection of key items, codes, maps, and more. As you play you’ll explore all you can, before working your way through the locked doors and puzzles marked on your map. It’s the kind of game that allows you to collect key items you have no use for yet, when suddenly a single code you overlooked causes a cascade of open doors, new items, and solid progress.

Working your way through the grounds of the Crow Country theme park feels like exploring the Spencer Mansion for the first time all over again – the sense of progression takes more than a few cues from Capcom’s classic – but it’s a bit less complex, and you won’t be juggling key items with an awkward storage system. A modern map is the final thing you need to avoid getting lost, and as long as you read the notes and documents you find around the game, you’ll rarely get truly lost.

Magazine clippings and staff memos can be found around the world. Magazine clippings are pages from a game tips mag, which offer actual tips for playing Crow Country. Staff memos are more overt hints and puzzle solutions – some puzzles can seem a little obtuse, but then you might find the solution you need in a staff memo on the other side of the theme park. All memos and clippings can be read from safe rooms, so as long as you’re diligent in reading everything, you’ll have a record to peruse in case you get stuck.

Each room in Crow Country is distinct.
Each room in Crow Country is distinct. / SFB Games

If I’m to make a complaint about Crow Country, it’s that the art style isn’t consistent. I’ll excuse Mara’s low-poly model against the relatively detailed environments – the original RE game had pre-rendered backgrounds with a lot of detail, after all – but why is Mara’s model far less detailed than every other NPC you can speak with? Some monsters are suitably horrific and creepy, but they’re also weirdly high-poly and detailed. If it weren’t for the thick pixelated filter layered over the game, the different levels of detail on models would make them look like they’re picked from different retro games. That might be the point, but it doesn’t really work.

It’s a minor gripe though, because poly count be damned, some of those monsters are brilliantly haunting. A full rundown of the names and natures of the creatures in Crow Country is offered near the end of the game, but all you really need to know is that when you run into a big one standing in the middle of a room you expect to be empty, you just might turn around and run away. Combat is rarely difficult, assuming you’re well-equipped, but it is tactile and satisfying, despite how basic it is.

Crow Country can feel like a mess of too many parts at first, but as you progress through the game it all just fits. The characters, the monsters, Crow Country itself, Mara’s presence here, Edward Crow – all of the mysteries, major and minor, get ironed out in one way or another, and it’s surprisingly satisfying.

Fires are places of respite, and save points.
Fires are places of respite, and save points. / SFB Games

If Crow Country were just styled like an old Resident Evil game I probably would’ve dropped it, but it manages to get everything perfect. If Capcom had released this as a non-canon RE side-story, it would probably be getting a thunderous reception right now. I don’t like nostalgia bait, but Crow Country is so much more. Whether you’re a ‘90s kid or not, all Resident Evil and survival horror fans should absolutely play Crow Country.

Score: 9/10

Platform tested: PC, Steam


Published
Dave Aubrey

DAVE AUBREY

GLHF Deputy Editor. Nintendo fan. Rapper. Pretty good at video games.