The Crow’s Eye – The Crowswood Experiment – Review

Dracolich – Tuesday, March 21, 2017 5:49 PM
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If you think The Crow’s Eye is a simple “escape from the room” type of adventure game, think again. Still, that’s how the game posits itself as: an adventure with a dark atmosphere and horror elements, where the focus is always on escaping, and even the puzzles and their solutions revolve around this. As such, The Crow’s Eye actively revolves around always dangling the possibility of escape in front of the player, yet keeping it ever out of reach.

The game’s storyline focuses on an abandoned university, a crazy professor on the radio, and a constant feeling of uncertainty: questions such as who we are, how we got here, what sort of experiment we’re participating in – and why – dominate the plot. Our task is to piece together the past, one fragment at a time; to make sense of our visions while putting our memories in the correct context.

Problems, problems, problems

The Crow’s Eye doesn’t do much to prepare you for its adventure. Following a brief tutorial regarding interaction and our equipment, it makes us embark on our journey right away, leaving only the insane professor’s narration to linger in our ears: “There are no rules, unless I feel like adding them.”

I personally welcome this sort mentality towards a mystery/puzzle game – we are not given time to familiarize ourselves with the mechanics in advance, and as such, the game is pleasantly devoid of hand-holding. After all, real life gives us similar challenges: we’re here and need to explore and find solutions on our own.

The Crow’s Eye throws a large repertoire of challenges at us, from simple path- and key-finding through reflex-based tasks, all the way to head-scratching puzzles, and while the game tries to gradually increase the difficulty of these tasks, they do start to feel somewhat repetitive after a while. Making our equipment a bit more varied and combinable could’ve helped in remedying this issue – I saw a lot more potential here, much of which was never utilized.

Not entirely psychological, and not entirely horror

Although based on the game’s attempts at creating a certain mood, one would think that it will wage a psychological war against us with plenty of horror elements seeped in drama and atmosphere; instead, it relies on restrained horror bits with a few jump scares sprinkled here and there. All we’ll have to endure are the sarcastic remarks of the insane professor, who tests our patience with comments urging us to give up because we won’t be able to prevail anyway, telling us how all our efforts are pointless to begin with and so on – you get the idea. The real cherry on top is that all this takes place within a university, so if anyone missed this experience during their university years, here’s a chance to live through it. And for those who have yet to attend university, well… the game will serve as a way to prepare you for the future.

And while insults of this caliber have no effect on me personally, they apparently work as negative inspiration; the developers – perhaps due to player reactions – ended up balancing this out with some positive feedback, so that those with more sensitive souls don’t find themselves too shamed by the game.

A weak storyline, the death of dramaturgy

While The Crow’s Eye tries to operate with drama, weaving plenty of personal tragedies into its narrative, it sadly – despite its many notes and audio logs – cannot maintain a proper dramatic atmosphere. The developers were successful in creating a few exceptionally shocking and tragicomic scenes, which could’ve left a much stronger impression if the player was given a reason to actually care about the key figures affected by them.

The developers chose the Philadelphia Experiment as the backdrop of the story, which I found completely out of place and unnecessary, while the game’s plot seemed like an attempt to mask the weakness – or outright lack – of character- and face animations.

Hardly the end, only the beginning

The Crows EyePlatform: PCGenre: AdventureDeveloper: 3D2 EntertainmentPublisher: Nkidu Games Inc.Release: 03/20/2017However, through masterful execution, the game is also rich in highly memorable moments: the timed challenges that appear when we least expect them, the flashbacks, the hallucinations, and the environmental effects all create an atmosphere that make it very easy to forgive the game its various flaws, while the soundtrack – which grows more unique and melancholic as we get closer to the finale – very much makes up for all our previously failed attempts.

The Crow’s Eye is a true breath of fresh air in an industry that seems more and more eager to force adventure games into the background. Ever since the RPG genre has taken a turn towards flower-picking side quests and personal drama-clichés, one cannot help but appreciate every adventure game that places an emphasis on thinking, problem-solving, and thus facilitating the player’s ability to think logically. For those who want a challenge (which, by the way, is hardly insurmountable in terms of difficulty) instead of a psychological band-aid in video game format, The Crow’s Eye will be the source of many an enjoyable moment, and I can say with utmost confidence that I eagerly await 3D2 Entertainment’s sequel to the title.

The Crow’s Eye is now available on Steam.

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