Crow Country scratches that PS1 survival horror itch, but it's also the perfect game for a total genre newbie

Crow Country
(Image credit: SFB Games)

Creeping through the deserted amusement park, I whisper a quick thank you to SFB Games for the lack of fixed camera angles in Crow Country. It's one of the most refreshing twists to a well-trodden genre that the developer has implemented, but Crow Country still oozes many other charming quirks and mechanical sensibilities you might expect from any of the best survival horror games of the late 90s. I'm talking about limited ammo, an isometric viewpoint that makes you dread what lurks just off-camera, lots of backtracking, and even more enemies to shoot, swerve, or trap as you navigate a labyrinthine map that seems to go on forever – and yes, it's color-coded to denote your progress.

There are many indie survival horror games that want to be like the classics, but Crow Country does a lot more than that. Despite being recognizably devoted to our PS1 darlings, it's still very much its own game, finely-tuned to highlight the best of the genre while leaving its clunkier baggage behind. The result is a distinct yet familiar blend of vibrant horrors, all underpinned by a tale as dramatic as its eerie setting – and it's perfect for you, even if none of it is familiar at all.

Come one, come all 

Crow Country

(Image credit: SFB Games)

Playing Crow Country makes me feel nostalgic for a time when I was barely able to hold a controller, let alone play a full survival horror game. The game is a twofold success story in that sense, perfectly encapsulating the genre's style, form, and gameplay tropes that older fans will love revisiting, while giving greener horror fans the chance to experience it all for the very first time.

Casting a wider net, removing pesky genre gatekeepers, and allowing more people to access and play more horror is the whole point of indie horror games in my opinion – and Crow Country is welcome proof of it.

"A lovingly built greatest hits mix"

Crow Country review

(Image credit: SFB Games)

Check out our Crow Country review

We're still knee-deep in a nostalgic horror game renaissance, heralded in no small part by indie studios not unlike SFB Games whose small-budget, stripped-down terrors reignited a hunger for all things that go bump on our computer monitors. From Slender: The Eight Pages to Phasmophobia, and even the harrowingly meta Doki Doki Literature Club, there's always been something undeniably compulsive about playing (or watching people play) indie horror games. 

Watching someone play a horror game might satisfy your own morbid curiosity – as darkwebSTREAMER game director Chantal Ryan told me of her own experience showcasing her particularly voyeuristic horror game – but it also serves to spark interest in new fans. Crow Country might not have the jumpscares or bitesize narrative pacing of the above viral mainstays, but it's the long-awaited next logical step we have been building up to all this time: a retro-style survival horror game for the genre boffins and newbies alike.

Crow Country

(Image credit: SFB Games)

As well as handbooks in the form of staff notes and retro game guide magazines strewn about each room to help you if you struggle with puzzles, controls, or objectives, an important example of Crow Country's commitment to welcoming new players is Explorer Mode. Upon loading up a fresh save, you're given the choice between playing the game with or without monsters around most corners. It's something I don't recall seeing in most horror games, given that they are horror games, but the opportunity to play Crow Country as a spooky puzzle game for your first time around is an ingenious one. This, paired with the helpful penguin machines that give you cryptic clues in exchange for one of 10 tokens should you get stuck, feel like intuitive, thoughtful ways to help new survival horror players get to grips with the unique balance of combat, mystery, and backtrack-worthy puzzles.

It might be steeped in reverence for PS1 days gone by, but Crow Country proves that the horror game renaissance isn't just about nostalgia – it's also about innovation. Sure, I know all too well by now that at least one of the stalls in this dank, dimly-lit bathroom will house either a health item or monster, and I go about smashing every crate I can find in search of more handgun bullets. But Crow Country knows which classic survival horror tropes will satisfy, which are best left in 1999, and what to add for any newcomers who find themselves playing a survival horror game for the very first time.

I lost interest in Dragon's Dogma 2 after 85 hours, so I decided to nuke my playthrough with the infamous RPG mechanic that most players resent.

Jasmine Gould-Wilson
Staff Writer, GamesRadar+

Jasmine is a staff writer at GamesRadar+. Raised in Hong Kong and having graduated with an English Literature degree from Queen Mary, University of London in 2017, her passion for entertainment writing has taken her from reviewing underground concerts to blogging about the intersection between horror movies and browser games. Having made the career jump from TV broadcast operations to video games journalism during the pandemic, she cut her teeth as a freelance writer with TheGamer, Gamezo, and Tech Radar Gaming before accepting a full-time role here at GamesRadar. Whether Jasmine is researching the latest in gaming litigation for a news piece, writing how-to guides for The Sims 4, or extolling the necessity of a Resident Evil: CODE Veronica remake, you'll probably find her listening to metalcore at the same time.