As you may know, the App store is drenched with cutesy looking physics puzzlers that all start to look the same after a while. They may seem like overload, but when it comes to the stark difference between them and a game like Crow [$2.99], they simply make it stand out even more than it already does, like a rainbow standing behind a horseman of the apocalypse. Everyone loves their cute time wasters, but watch out with this one, because you're about to get a distinctly gothic change of pace.
Right out of the gate, Crow has something to it when it comes to atmosphere. The game's saturated color palette brought up memories of Cyan's Myst series, which I will take basically any excuse to mention in conversation, gaming-related or otherwise. Suffice to say I felt comforted the moment I fired up Crow. The adventure title puts you in the role of the black winged bird, gliding soundlessly over the skies of a foreign land. You'll soon learn that a creature called The Scarecrow poses a threat, and it must be cursed by you in order for you to gain its power. If you can vanquish it, other foes will surely follow.
To accomplish this, you'll play in two separate gameplay sections. In the first, you'll fly over a patch of land searching for story points and trinkets (the latter which will earn you skill points to buff up your powers).To control the crow, you use your finger to drag it in the direction you want it to fly in. I was not crazy about the controls as I felt like my finger was in the way of the action more than half the time, but I adjusted to it as I found the world very interesting. Once I had collected enough story points, I had the opportunity to challenge The Scarecrow, which takes you to the game's second mode.
In these boss fights, you fly around with your foe on rails and choose certain options, such as to scratch it with your claws or to shield yourself. Each foe will react to different types of tactics, but the most interesting part of this battle comes at the end, where the player is given a choice to "curse" or "spare" the opponent. Each choice affects what direction the crow develops in, and he can end up very good or very bad. This will also affect your scores after you finish the game.
Crow also has leaderboards and achievements for you to play with, and you can also unlock Challenge Levels using your current skill set (based on what part of the game you are in). These take you back to the on rails gameplay and have you basically collect stuff and rack up points.
Crow's good looks have to be shook off a bit before you can reasonably decide whether it is fun -- because it is VERY pretty. It also feels like a flying version of Infinity Blade at times. I'd say the attractive atmosphere and music buff down the fact that it could have used more fine tuning. The missions where you collect trinkets feel a little boring, for instance, but I really enjoyed the on-rails fights. With a game that presents such a rich-looking world, it almost felt weird to be merely collecting things in it -- I wanted to learn more about it, but I wasn't really given the opportunity.
I think it's safe to say Crow is a mixed bag, but is still worth picking up because it so much uniqueness to offer. Because it does look so stellar, you can't help but wish those little design flaws (like trading a d-pad for your finger being in the middle of the screen at all times) weren't there. Still, developer Sunside shows that their in-house platform (called Radiance) has guts, and I can't help but wonder what they'll do with it from here on out.
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