Exploring Crow Country on PlayStation

Exploring the survival horror hit from the PlayStation perspective

Exploring Crow Country on PlayStation
Source: Press Kit.

In the month since its release, Crow Country has captured the attention of many gaming fans. Fellow SJP writer Brandon Chinn clearly loved the game on Steam Deck, so check out his detailed examination and review here on SUPERJUMP, which touted the game as an indie survival horror masterpiece. I'm inclined to agree; we have seen no shortage of survival horror games in recent years, but developer SFB Games just gets it. It's out on multiple platforms, but I just had to experience it on PlayStation 5 and nowhere else.

It became clear from the classic PlayStation-style manual included in the press release kit that developer SFB Games may have shared the same sentiment. It isn't about being a fan of one platform over everything else, nothing petty like that; rather it's because the game itself oozes a rich legacy that very much began on PlayStation.

The very roots of the survival horror genre we love today can be traced back to PlayStation (PSOne for the sake of clarity). Sure, something like the MS-DOS version of Alone in the Dark no doubt predates the 32-bit era, but the genre didn't really arrive until the PlayStation and the ease of its advanced CDROM technology offered all the right tools and ingredients to make it happen.

Crow Country's logo - blocky typewriter-stlye lettering with some blood splatters.
Source: SFB Games.

When Resident Evil made its debut on PlayStation (and SEGA Saturn), it really did change everything. The control scheme, the precise nature of combat, and the emphasis on cryptic puzzles, all came together logically into an adventure that emphasized exploration and survival. Now, Resident Evil didn't necessarily invent the aforementioned elements, but it did compile them into a sound and cohesive game design. Crow Country encapsulates these essential ingredients just as smoothly, and right from the outset it's easy to lose oneself in the environment and start making sense of the puzzles.

Silent Hill is another franchise that pioneered advancements on the PlayStation, using hardware limitations to its advantage to create a grainy and foggy aesthetic which enhanced the vibe and atmosphere of it all. Crow Country too has a deliberate aesthetic about it, using a grainy filter and fogginess to sell a unique vibe. Silent Hill was also known for its music and sound design, and Crow Country excels in this regard too. In fact, the spooky carnival presentation early easily reminds diehard fans of the highly underrated Silent Hill 3.

Tugging a bit more on those historical threads, Crow Country is richly laid out to make exploration and puzzle-solving a delight, and the combat sequences are thoughtfully punctuated as well. Back in the days of 32-bit horror adventures, video game magazines were essential to getting through with all the maps intricately drawn out showing the items and save point locations. Having these magazine guides didn't make the games any easier as players were still on their own in the survival aspect. Crow Country pays a touching tribute to this era with snippets of a game magazine scattered early in the game world, each containing simple yet helpful hints.

Then there is, of course, juxtaposition. If you haven't noticed, the character models in Crow Country have a certain cute aesthetic. This jarring juxtaposition to the spookiness of the setting definitely does a great job of creating a creepiness, and the stark contrast of aesthetics feels quite similar to what we saw in the 32-bit Clock Tower games.

Source: Press Kit.

Given how closely the game is based on some of PlayStation's all-time horror classics, it's the sole reason why I couldn't play it on any other platform than PS5. It feels right at home like generations of horror coming to life on the latest Sony hardware. It's not that the game needed much horsepower to exist, but it goes to show that the intangibles that make a game special or fitting for a platform have very little to do with processing horsepower.

Brandon was right to say that Crow Country might just be one of the best games released in 2024. It manages to be an homage to a classic era without being derivative or limited in its gameplay ambitions. Instead, this is an experience that is deeply rooted in tradition, adopting all the good parts to create the best horror adventures in recent years.


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