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.
Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View
Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento
Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as
17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?
What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.
Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?
IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor
Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.
On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.
The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.
While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.
What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.
While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.
IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.
The Hatred Review – A History Lesson Dug Up From The Depths Of Hell
Starring Zelda Adams, Lulu Adams, John Law
Directed by John Law
I don’t know about the scholastic interests the masses had (or have) that read all of the killer nuggets that get cranked out on this site, but when I was an academic turd, one of my true passions was history, and it was one of the only subjects that managed to hold my interest, and when the opportunity arose to check out John Law’s ultra-nightmarish feature, The Hatred – I was ready to crack the books once again.
The setting is the Blackfoot Territory in the late 1800s, and the pains of a lengthy conflict have taken their toll on the remaining soldiers as food has become scarce, and the film picks up with soldiers on the march in the brutal cold and snow covered mountainside. In tow is a P.O.W. (Law), and the decision is made by the soldiers to execute him in earnest instead of having to shorten their rations by feeding him, so he is then hung (pretty harshly done), and left to rot as the uniformed men trudge along. A short time later the group encounters a small family on the fringes of the territory, and when the demands for food are rebuked, the slaughter is on and the only survivor is a young girl (Adams) who prays to an oblivious god that she can one day reap the seeds of revenge upon those who’ve murdered her family. We all know that there are usually two sides to any story, and when the good ear isn’t listening, the evil one turns its direction towards those who need it most, and that’s when the Devil obliges.
The answer to the young girl’s prayers comes in the resurrection of the prisoner that was hung a short time ago, and he has been dubbed “Vengeance” – together their goal will be achieved by harshly dishing out some retribution, and the way it’s presented is drawn-out, almost like you’re strapped into the front-row pew of a hellfire-cathedral and force-fed the sermon of an evil voice from the South side of the tracks. It’s vicious and beautiful all at once, Law’s direction gives this visually-striking presentation all the bells and whistles to please even the harshest of critics (hell, you’re reading the words of one right now). The performances, while a bit stoic in nature, still convey that overall perception of a wrong that demands to be righted, no matter how morally mishandled it might be. Overall, I can absolutely recommend The Hatred for not only those wanting a period-piece with ferocious-artistry, but for others who continue to pray with no response, and are curious to see what the other side can offer.
The Hatred is a visually-appealing look into the eyes of animus, and all of the beauty of returning the harm to those who have awarded it to others.
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