June 15, 2024

Taking part in retro-inspired video games is like returning to a beloved theme park as an grownup. Instinctively understanding the place to go first, remembering what it was wish to be there as a baby —it performs to a really particular form of nostalgia. Retro-inspired video games usually embrace acquainted mechanics, recognizable artwork kinds, and tropes of a beloved style or particular title, providing an nearly an identical expertise to the nostalgia of a Disneyland go to. That’s the concept behind Crow Nation, the PS1-inspired survival horror title from SFB Video games that’s aptly set within a theme park.

Crow Nation wears its influences on its sleeve, lovingly embracing options and components you’d anticipate finding in an entry on this style, from tank controls to item-based puzzles. Sadly, its reverence for the video games that impressed it (Resident Evil 1 &2, Silent Hill)) inspirations can maintain it again, as Crow Nation by no means fairly captures the identical magic because the giants of the style. However even with a few of the proverbial rides at this theme park feeling like they may use some work, the sport remains to be a comforting addition to the retro-horror pattern.

Imitation is the very best type of flattery

Picture: SFB Video games

Crow Nation’s begin doesn’t waste time with pleasantries, as a substitute, it instantly drops you into the footwear of younger detective Mara Forest, as she arrives on the now-abandoned titular theme park. Very similar to the unique Resident Evil the plot is straightforward: Mara is there to seek for the park’s mysterious proprietor, Edward Crow. This fundamental framework means you’re naturally inclined to discover this theme park, and also you’ll rapidly encounter zombie-like enemies intent on killing you.

To perform this singular objective of monitoring down Edward Crow, you’ll must do a variety of puzzle-solving. Like Resident Evil set items the Spencer Mansion or the Raccoon Metropolis Police Division, Crow Nation has a collection of advanced puzzles that block off swaths of the titular theme park’s 4 totally different areas. This forces you to backtrack via the park incrementally as you search for key gadgets that can help you full puzzles that may unlock new areas.

A young woman running through a circular maze

Picture: SFB Video games

All that backtracking is made extra partaking by the titular theme park itself. Crow Nation is a captivating locale. Not solely does it play on the inherent eariness of deserted theme parks, however the varied themes of every space have a singular, unsettling attraction to them. The Haunted Hilltop is the most effective vibe match for the sport due to its spooky set dressing, however areas just like the underwater-themed Ocean Kingdom and even the much less ostentatiously themed hub areas of the park have a definite sense of dread to them.

Whereas Resident Evil looms extremely massive in Crow Nation’s mechanics, narrative, and total vibes, its visible language references a totally totally different PlayStation 1 basic—Closing Fantasy VII. Like the unique FF7, Crow Nation renders its characters in an nearly chibi-like method, with the surroundings equally small and doll-house-like. At first, I used to be involved that the visible type of the sport would conflict an excessive amount of with the mechanics and tone, however that was by no means a problem. Simply as the unique FF7’s foolish aesthetic doesn’t maintain again its all-time nice story, Crow Nation manages to craft a stable survival horror surroundings regardless of its seemingly cutesy artwork type.

Misplaced in translation

A young woman with purple hair shooting a fleshy blob

Picture: SFB Video games

Sadly, Crow Nation’s use of conventional survival horror mechanics (gunplay, puzzles, and useful resource administration) is much less profitable. On the subject of gunplay Mara has a rising arsenal of weapons at her disposal however should cease in her tracks to goal and hearth. Like basic video games within the style, it’s a system meant to really feel dangerous, since enemies can get nearer to you when you are caught in place. However Crow Nation’s enemies are typically unimportant and may be prevented extremely simply. Regardless of the sport dropping increasingly more of them onto the map as you progress, fight by no means seems like an essential pillar of Crow Nation, which is solidified by the dearth of any actual boss encounters.

As for puzzles, Crow Nation is considerably of a combined bag. An excellent variety of puzzles are easy single-item issues that require the participant to simply carry the MacGuffin to the suitable place on the map. These really feel principally like busy work—at any time when I encountered them, I discovered myself determined for one thing extra advanced than simply lugging one merchandise to its designated location. There are some extra intensive item-based and logic challenges that made me pull out a pocket book and pen within the later hours of the sport—these have been essentially the most satisfying puzzles within the sport however felt few and much between.

Lastly, Crow Nation’s useful resource administration options squander what could be a very powerful pillar in survival horror video games. Useful resource administration is a vital a part of the dread, a mechanical restrict on the participant’s energy that ratchets up the depth and worry on the proper moments. Much less room to carry ammunition and therapeutic gadgets means you need to be extra cautious when coping with enemies. Crow Nation lacks any of that significant friction, as I by no means as soon as discovered myself missing sources or unable to carry as a lot as I needed. You face little or no actual menace due to this, and when mixed with the lackluster fight it quantities to an usually frictionless—and extra boring—gameplay expertise.

The best way Crow Nation deploys these mechanics leaves it feeling like a shadow of its inspirations. Whereas it has all of the signifiers of basic survival horror it’s all missing depth. The visible type, essentially the most distinctive facet of the sport in the way it merges and performs with its inspirations, is the star of the present right here. Sadly that may’t make up for the sport’s mechanics, which current the survival horror style’s core pillars with out executing them correctly. That being the sport presents a peculiar expertise for followers of the style, who’re the more than likely folks to choose up Crow Nation. It received’t dwell as much as its inspirations however it’ll nonetheless set off that nostalgic response simply sufficient to make it an gratifying experience via a simplified—even theme park-ified—model of survival horror.