Mobile Game of the Week: Crow (iOS)

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Mobile Game of the Week: Crow (iOS)


Platform: iOS
Developer: Sunside Inc.
Release Date: 04/12/2012
Price: $2.99

Crow’s fairly serious tone is refreshing compared to all the cute and cuddly games that fill the App Store today. The dark colors, unabashed violence and ominous cultic themes all work together to create a unique vibe for a mobile game. I love colorful puzzle-platformers as much as anyone else, but you can’t survive on a diet of cotton candy and lollipops. Sometimes you need something a little more substantial to chew on. Crow clearly seeks to be that game for mobile gamers, but it ends up being a little too shallow to fill those shoes.

The first thing to note about Crow is its astonishing technical achievements. The menu design might frustrate, but the visuals in Crow sparkle and shimmer with a refined sense of polish. Textures are crisp and animations are silky smooth — a testament to the level of detail that this small indie studio was able to pay attention to. For many, seeing their device display such beautiful 3D environments will be enough to draw them to Crow.

The game plays out in two primary modes: exploration and battle. In each of the game’s four stages you float across the landscapes searching for trinkets, story points, and battles to engage in. Unfortunately, the exploration mode feels a lot more like scrolling across a 3D map and a lot less like actually exploring a fleshed-out world. Furthermore, because the game lacks any consistent story, each of the stages feels disconnected from each other, especially with the uninteresting text-only story points. The developer has painstakingly created these beautiful environments but gives us very little to do in them.

The boss fights, on the other hand, are where Crow shines. The battles take place in on-rail flight fights against a variety of enemies whose movements and patterns you’ll have to memorize. Even though the different swipes and gestures that attack or shield definitely feel similar to Infinity Blade, Crow’s fights are varied enough to feel engaging and cinematic in their own right. One of the most memorable moments of the game was in the second boss fight where you battle a massive faun-like creature that felt somewhat like battling an AT-AT Walker as Luke Skywalker. Once I defeated the great beast, I had a brief existential Shadow of the Colossus-type moment where I began to wonder why I was going around stealing power from these so-called “enemies”. The morality system is pretty basic and rudimentary, but it’s a nice touch.

Again, the sense of scale that Crow tries to evoke is impressive. The orchestral soundtrack swells and booms in the background as you soar across the terrain. The landscapes look vast as they fade into the distance. The bits of story that I caught seem relatively grand and epic. However, most of it is just a facade for a game that is really all about boss fights. And while those boss fights are pretty fun, the rest of Crow feels tragically underdeveloped.