The crow has always been a creature associated with darkness, and that is not about to change anytime soon.
A scavenger of human sorrow, a companion to the Norse god Odin and a heck of a good movie are some of the past roles. In Crow it gets a star role once more, but still something else is guiding and judging it. Enter the darkness clad in black wings in Crow.
Crow is an on-rails gesture slasher/dodge ‘em up set in a dark fantasy world. The gestures are really basic with a few magical attacks, and a shield. To use magic you tap the power meter when it glows, and then draw or swipe a gesture. Attack is a diagonal downward swipe, and shield is a circle. With such limited magic the action is more about dodging, and avoiding incoming arrows and punches. If you get hit your power meter takes a plunge, and when empty the game is over. I did like this aspect of the game, as it limits berserker attacks and rewards agility.
The first battles I entered were kind of cool, but with harder enemies it soon showed to well that this is completely linear on-rails. If you miss the final enemy in a battle the crow has to fly an entire lap to get back to that enemy. As battle is kind of weird out of a distance perspective it is at times hard to judge how close, or far away you have to attack. This was evident in my attack on a large beast that knelt. I assumed I should hit it late straight in the chin, but after 30 or so swoops around the same area it turned out that I had to hit from quite far away.
The battle mechanics is definitely not the strong point of the game. To me it feels like a watered down Dark Meadow that in turn is a simplistic take on Infinity Blade II. Where Crow shines is the same area that made Dark Meadow worth exploring: the mood, and dark atmosphere. From the title screen to the actual gameplay there is a ominous sense of wickedness. I am a huge fan of mythologies, and combining Norse mythology, some Greek mythology with a general middle age sense of story, and some more modern scares the setting is perfect. It is never really clear what the motivation is for this crow to find trinkets, and fight monsters. It is however clear that there is something more menacing guiding the crow. You get the choice to spare, or curse the bosses you have fought. Needless to say the soft choice is not popular.
As you pick up trinkets, and defeat enemies you get to upgrade different aspects of the crow’s abilities. Faster regeneration, less cost of magic and longer lasting shield magic is some of the choices. This motivated me to find all the trinkets, and play the challenge levels as well.
The presentation is a bit hit and miss with some great visuals in the menus, and backgrounds combined with ugly character models. Flying across the land just exploring looks awesome, and the crow is well animated. In the battle scenes you get a closer look at the enemies, and most of them look blocky and not matched to the scenery at all.
The sound is perfectly suited to the game with a dark ambient soundtrack for the exploration parts, and a quicker at times guitar-induced soundtrack for the battles. Overall this is a game where you have to use headphones, and dim the lights for maximum immersion.
Crow is an on-rails dodge ‘em up in third person view with some calmer exploration flight segments. The distances of attacks are not that easy to understand, which makes the battles feel a bit random in nature. More importantly the on-rails nature of the battles can turn the game into an endless flier circling around the enemy. However, the excellent dark mood created by the sound, and mellower flight sections are well worth experiencing.
Crow $4.99 Universal for iPad/iPhone/iPod
Seller: Sunside, Inc.