This creepy sport is a picture-perfect throwback to PS1 horror

Mara walks through an amusement park in Crow Country.
SFB Games

Have you ever discovered your self pondering that previous video video games was scarier?

I do know I’m in that boat. Nothing creeps me out greater than the unique Resident Evil or Silent Hill 2. Some newer video games may hit me with some further soar scares, however many titles that actually stick in my thoughts are usually from older eras. There’s one apparent motive for that: I used to be youthful and dumber then. But that solely tells half the story. There’s one thing undeniably creepy about Nineties horror video games made earlier than the times of photorealism. It’s arduous to place a severed finger on it, however a brand new indie sport may assist.

Crow Country, a brand new launch from Tangle Tower developer SFB Games, is a retro horror game that appears prefer it was pulled from, the PlayStation 1’s library. It pays homage to classics like Silent Hill, placing gamers by a claustrophobic puzzle field crammed with shambling monsters. In creating such a devoted ode, SFB Games will get to the center of what made previous horror video games really feel so scary, even when they give the impression of being so goofy now.

Creeping dread

In Crow Country, gamers tackle the position of Mara Forest, a detective who is named to an deserted amusement park in the hunt for a lacking individual. She’s rapidly roped right into a thriller concerning the park’s proprietor and the nefarious issues he was doing there. Its a riff on Resident Evil‘s Spencer Mansion plot, but with more animatronic crows. It’s an deliberately inventory story, but it surely works as a light-weight callback.

After a little bit of exploration, a well-recognized gameplay loop presents itself. I’ve to seek out keys and resolve puzzles to open the park and get to the key at its coronary heart. When I get a bronze key, I do know precisely which doorways to apply it to. One puzzle room tells me I must put an egg-shaped object in a gap to function a mechanical swan. When I do this, I discover one other merchandise that leads me to my subsequent puzzle. It’s elegant and uncomplicated puzzle field gameplay. The park itself is small and nothing’s too obtuse. The complete journey solely takes just a few hours to zip by, guaranteeing it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Mara interacts with a puzzle in Crow Country.
SFB Games

There are monsters to shoot alongside the way in which, in fact. It doesn’t take lengthy earlier than the park fills up with zombies, slithering blobs, and hulking flesh beasts. To assault them, I press a button to lock my character in place after which free purpose from there to shoot them. Headshots do extra injury, naturally, however pictures additionally do extra injury the nearer Mara is to a monster. That provides a bit of additional rigidity, because it pays to place myself in peril. Granted, fight is usually non-compulsory. In most instances, its simple to weave round creatures and never have interaction in battle in any respect. That’s an intentional selection, as Crow Country needs gamers to make decisions about how they preserve ammo, but it surely does make motion really feel inconsequential at instances.

Though there are some quirks to choose at, Crow Country makes its largest influence as a nostalgic tone piece. The most placing factor about it’s its low polygon artwork model. It seems precisely like an old PS1 game, with jagged strains and tough edges that make it appear like it’s being performed on a cathode-ray tube TV. Its someplace between Resident Evil and Final Fantasy, with extra shade and rounded objects than you’d often discover in a horror sport. It seems unbelievable, and SFB Games modernizes the controls round it to be sure that model doesn’t include the gameplay frustrations of the sooner period.

Mara shoots a monster in Crow Country.
SFB Games

That visible model isn’t only for present. Crow Country is completely unnerving in the identical method that the video games it calls again to nonetheless are. That’s most obvious in its monsters. Its “zombies” aren’t actually identifiable as contaminated people. They’re a messy assortment of pink polygons that erratically jerk across the display screen. Its arduous to inform what precisely they’re — and that’s what makes them scary. How can I do know the place to shoot after I can’t occasion make out their limbs?

That’s the type of factor that I nonetheless love about Silent Hill 2, considered one of my all-time favourite horror video games. Every creature looks like an unnatural abomination. I worry what I can’t perceive. We’ve misplaced that have in gaming’s hunt for photorealism, however Crow Country serves as an amazing reminder that the bumps of previous video games aren’t errors meant to be smoothed over. The warts are what makes them scary.

Crow Country launches on May 9 for PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.

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