The Crow's Eye20th March, 2017
Horror games have had a tumultuous time over the past few decades. What seemed like an endless dry spell was rescued by the efforts of indie developers like Frictional Games. Only a handful of the major developers actually stuck to real horror. Most large series’ like Silent Hill and Resident Evil took on an action-oriented stance. This is where indie developers, like 3D2 Entertainment, sought to fill the gap with games like The Crow’s Eye.
However, and this is the major problem, titles like Amnesia, Five Nights, Slender and Lone Survivor performed so well that the gap has been well and truly filled. There’s always space for a great horror game, but for the rest of the pile? It’s getting cramped. Adding onto that is that too many releases have been abysmal titles with no thought having gone into them. The question then is where exactly does The Crow’s Eye fit on this scale?
It’s hard to really call this a horror game in any traditional sense. It certainly shares some aspects with what you would expect from the genre. Set in a ruined old building, you’re tasked to escape and also solve the mystery of what’s actually going on. The core difference, the only real difference, is that instead of being set in a hospital, mansion or asylum, this takes place in a University. Mind you, it’s a medical university, so it’s not far out of the comfort zone.
What makes it different from even the more popular horror titles is that there’s no real sense of dread. There are literally only a handful of jump scares. The setting is firmly rooted in the genre and outside of the few scares, and one or two times where you have to collect something before you die, everything else may as well have dropped right out of a puzzle game. Simply put, the game isn’t scary. Even a fair number of the areas move away from horror and into pure puzzle; some with a Portal-esque aesthetic.
This, as well as the story, is where the cohesion of the game really falls apart. It’s utterly perplexing to move from a blood-stained toilet to a wrecked office to then fall through the floor to find a crisp, clean, futuristic hovering-box pushing puzzle. They genuinely don’t belong as part of the same game unless the story were to make an allowance for it. The antagonist being a mad doctor or scientist just isn’t reason enough and it’s simply not explained at all.
Frankly, until the end of the game, nothing of the main story is really explained. At the end, it’s all pretty much just told to you, with no real nuance. This is a shame because the side stories are actually considerably better. Collected through audio logs and notes, strewn around the levels, they tell a variety of stories. The fall into madness of the antagonist and the police investigation into disappearances in and around the university.
Indeed, these audio logs and the rest of the voice acting is one of the best qualities of the game. They offer more of a purpose to advance than the core story and certainly a way to drive your way through the frankly irritating puzzles. The Crow’s Eye is easy, very easy. Some of the puzzles are still frustrating and annoying for as a result of difficulty, but more of a lack of information. Everything can be figured out by pure common sense, like you get the purple box into the purple slot. Try to re-create the picture on the floor with the boxes given, strategically pushing them over one side at a time.
One fortunate thing is that throughout my time with the game I didn’t encounter any issues. The game is well made, no bugs to find and the only issues I could note come with the voice acting and logs. English is evidently not the developer’s main language and it shows, though far from the extent of other games.
The most difficult and annoying parts are the jumping puzzles. The game is littered with them. Timed jumping puzzles. Jumping puzzles where you have to place boxes in certain positions. Jumping puzzles that have you use the game’s equivalent of a grappling hook and anti-gravity gun, the electromagnet. However, this can only be used on the bright-red highlighted areas. You also have timed puzzles that have you using adrenaline, the game’s version of slow motion/bullet time.
All other aspects are just too simple, even though there’s literally next to zero hints given. If you don’t find the note with the safe’s code, no need to worry as when you’re turning the dial a clunk is blatantly heard to indicate you have the right number. Picking up items to progress, or to craft, is just a case of looking for the item that gives off a notable shine to indicate it can be picked up. The lockpicking mini-game is a simple version of Operation.
I’m honestly not sure what to think about The Crow’s Eye. It’s certainly had a lot of hard work gone into it and it has some redeeming features. Level design is mostly atmospheric and compelling. At the same time, the juxtaposition between the crisp and clean strange futuristic tech-style levels to the rest of the university is stark and detaches you from the game. The voice acting is charmingly hammy and does enough to make you ignore the fact that the main story is frankly boring.
What is certain is that The Crow’s Eye isn’t a bad game. It’s also not a great game. The fact that some work and thought has gone into this title immediately makes it stand out against the slew of terrible and uninventive titles that have used the same pre-bought assets or just rehashed slender. 3D2 Entertainment have made a strong enough start. The game has its problems but hopefully, 3D2 can learn and build on this.
Copy provided by publisher.
The Crow's Eye is a strange title. It's a horror game in some ways, with great atmosphere for the most part. However, it's also not scary. For the most part it's more of a puzzle game, than horror game and has side-stories far more compelling than the main plot. In all, it offers an interesting, if flawed experience.
- Excellent voice acting. Delightfully hammy by the antagonist.
- Interesting side-stories explored through audio-logs and other collectibles
- Atmospheric with strong level design
- Aside from some certain areas that simply don't belong in the game
- Main story is simply bad and rounded up with a huge dump of information at the end
- Some puzzles, particularly jumping ones, are unnecessary
- Even then, these and the whole game is just too easy