So, time for a long-overdue post about Crow on the iDevices.

I’ve long been a fan of the Starfox-style rail shooters- it’s sad that there aren’t more of them out there. I picked up Crow on the iPhone after seeing a series of good reviews- it’s not as long or polished as a full-size effort, but it’s a solid little game.

The game’s somewhat gothy setting puts you in control of a Crow, an emissary from the spirit world in this setting. An unseen spirit gives you orders to curse various foes, while a second voice implores you to spare them instead. Whose orders will you take? Realistically, it’s all pretty predictable, and there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of overall change in the plot in response to your choices (save perhaps the final enemy), but the plot isn’t the real attraction to the game to begin with.

The rail-shooter sections are smooth and pretty, and work very well. You control the crow using the touch-screen as a mouse, much like in any number of iOS shooters; it’s responsive and smooth. Your offensive and defensive spells are triggered using gestures- a diagonal swipe on an enemy attacks it and a circle drawn on the screen creates a defensive shield. The levels start to feel a bit repetitive after a while, but the game is short enough that it didn’t realy botter me.

The only thing about the game that I wasn’t quite so fond of was the “hunt-for-hidden-items” sections that bookend the action levels. These allow you to earn more ‘trinkets’ by flying around, and they do show off the area you’re in, but they feel like an unneccecary break in the action and finding trinkets can be a bit irritating. While they can be skipped and the game would probably seem a bit sparse without them, I would have preferred some other sort of minigame- or at least some more rail-shooter levels!

Crow is good, solid, pretty fun- I enjoyed it quite a bit, and I’d say it’s worth the $3.

– HC


Some games I’ve played recently, none of which are quite notable enough to write up a full article about:

Astronot (iOS): An unapologitically low-res IOs metroidvania somewhere between Metroid 2 and Redder in terms of complexity (one ‘scrambled’ screen I ran into hints at a reference to the second, but it may also have been an honest bug). There are only a handful of powerups to collect and enemies to defeat, and a lot of space to explore. I eventually gave up on it due to the lack of an automap and a a few poor presentation decisions- mostly centering around insufficient differentiation between foreground and background tiles. Others may enjoy it more than I, and it’s lightweight if you’re itching for some exploration-on-the-go. There’s both a full and demo version available.

Platformines beta (PC): Perhaps best described as Borderlands by way of Metal Slug, this platformer/Roguelike is about exploring a randomly-generated cave in seach of a set of key items. Along the way, you’ll be looting treasure and stockpiling a set of also-randolmly-generated guns. It was a lot of fun for the two hours or so I played the beta for; while I’m not entirely sure that there’s enough meat to the game to keep it interesting for the advertised 5-10-hour playtime, it’s worth keeping an eye on. The beta can be downloaded here, and there’s a trailer available here.

Blind Man’s Dungeon (iOS): Japanese developer Skipmore has produced a number of small, free games for iOS, including Rotten Tangerines, my second-favorite tangerine-themed video game. Blind Man’s Dungeon is their latest, following a hero who’s decided to blindly charge into his local dungeon, with the plan of left-hand-ruling his way to treasure and glory.

Note to aspiring adventurers: This is not a good plan. Do not do this.

You control a fairy with the power to create temporary walls; your goal is to use this power to guide the hero, who will turn left whenever he bumps into a solid object, toward treasure to collect and monsters to slay, while avoiding hazards along the way. Collecting treasure creates traps which will damage the hero if he crosses them; while the hero is capable of destroying most monsters, there are also some that will damage him as well. I’m not sure how long the concept will stay fresh, but it’s been pretty decent so far. It’s also ad-supported and downloadable for free here.

Oniken (PC): This one has been making the rounds on a number of news sites, so you’ve probably seen it before. The upshot: It’s a NES-style platformer recently released, starring a sword-wielding Kenshiro lookalike on his quest to defeat the robotic Oniken. It has the difficulty level you’d expect from an NES game- it certainly doesn’t pull its punches- but it has the smoother controls of a modern platformer. It feels a bit like Shatterhand, or one of the NES-era Ninja Gaiden games; it’s solid, although it admittedly didn’t do a whole lot for me. The full game costs $5; I’ve only played the demo, available on their website.

– HC