Developed by 3D2 Entertainment
Available on PC through Steam
Suitable for ages 13+
Here’s a tip: If most of your story is told through audio logs, spring for some decent voice actors. When your antagonist sounds like a 13-year-old cosplayer doing his best to sell his Joker face paint, it’s going to take me out of the experience. This is a game where every character delivers their lines like they’re trying out for a high school theater production of a soap opera. I had people pop their head into my gaming cave to tell me to turn it down because it was making them uncomfortable. The grating audio is not the only flaw with The Crow’s Eye, but it is the biggest one.
Developed by the Barcelona based 3D2 Entertainment, it’s easy to forgive a lot of the rough edges. Foreign developers with only six members to their team, I can’t imagine a large amount of money was poured into The Crow’s Eye. And it shows. Animations are limited, lighting rudimentary, and the environments lack detail. This is all the stuff you overlook because they didn’t have the budget to animate every single particle of dust and crumbling pile of rocks. If a game is good enough in concept and execution, you won’t even notice that you’ve been hunting for clues in seven copies of the exact same bookshelf.
Unfortunately, nothing about The Crow’s Eye is particularly groundbreaking. Playing as a nameless young man, you awaken alone in the decrepit Crowswood University. A cackling voice erupts over the intercom, informing you that you are part of an experiment and hinting that this is not the first time this has happened. It’s up to you to solve his puzzles and escape, all while hunting for various documents and audio logs to shed some light into what exactly is going on. Amnesiac silent protagonists forced to explore the ruins of a once thriving building and solve puzzles while spooky stuff happens? Never heard that one before.
What The Crow’s Eye does differently is that there aren’t any monsters to chase you around the hallways while you do your puzzle solving. Which for me is great, as I’m frankly tired of hide-and-seek simulators. Just let me solve your puzzles without having to hide in a cabinet for five minutes while a shambling horror shuffles around the room picking its navel. To The Crow’s Eye’s credit, this puzzle solving is where the game is at its best. It isn’t afraid to throw some genuinely challenging obstacles your way. I actually had to wrap my brain around some 3D math for the rotating block puzzles. It hit the sweet spot, engaging you to keep your brain active without going so far as to frustrate you.
The puzzles also happen to be why The Crow’s Eye is getting its review three days after embargo. There were two separate occasions where I just could not for the life of me figure out what to do. The game goes for a “let you figure it out” approach, and 98% is easily solvable by just looking around and adding two and two together. The other 2% is where I got stuck. One puzzle in particular that gave me trouble was in the middle of the third chapter. Without spoiling the puzzle, it turns out you have to throw a cube at a panel to activate it. Sounds simple enough, but the game had never introduced me to the concept before this. With how both the panel and the cube looked, it never even occurred to me that A) the panel was a button, and B) it could only be pressed by these particular cubes. I was using my weird time slow jumps to try to get to the light fixtures on the top of the room before I guessed to just throw shit. I actually had to message the devs for the answer.
The Crow’s Eye also significantly breaks tone when it gets to some of the more interesting puzzles. You early on get an electromagnet, which allows you to fly around to red magnetic points. Once this is discovered, it becomes most of what you’ll be doing. It turns the game into a platformer, which doesn’t fit with the horror theme. At the point where I’m zooming around an obstacle course and bouncing myself across platforms, I’m not exactly spooked.
I’m not going to say that The Crow’s Eye is a bad game, as some of the individual elements in isolation are pretty cool. The jumping puzzles were fast and fun, and the cerebral puzzles were challenging. The story was pretty interesting, if not hard to listen to. The Crow’s Eye’s biggest problem is that it’s a game at odds with itself. If you want your game to be mostly audio logs, then you have to be able to afford some decent voice actors. If you want to make a scary horror game, don’t have me zipping around the air to glowing red orbs. The whole crafting system seemed totally tacked on for no reason. Why the hell do I need to find some ink and cloth to make a map? Why not just let me find a map?
The Crow’s Eye is an example of unfocused design. I’d like to be a fly on the wall of 3D2’s meetings, finding out why all these disparate elements are part of the same game. But that’s about where my interest ends. If you’re looking for a good psychological horror game, The Crow’s Eye won’t scare you. If you’re looking for a decent story, then the voice acting is going to turn you off. If you’re looking for some decent puzzles, there are better dedicated puzzle games out there. The Crow’s Eye is not a bad game, just unremarkable.