The amount of games who have creepy mansions turned into schools turned into laboratories turned into mazes turned into hotels turned into museums turned back into mansions could fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Why does every location have to be something before it became something else? It's an exploited trope that's been in gaming since the early '90s after it was already abused in TV and film for decades, and I know it isn't going away anytime soon, but it really needs to take a break. That's part of the setting for Nkidu Games' latest mystery horror games, The Crow's Eye.
The Crow's Eye puts you in the position of an unnamed and confused man in 1966 who is exploring a former mansion turned University Of Crowswood. Several students and faculty went missing here years ago and the place was shut down shortly thereafter. You woke up here not knowing much about anything, As you're given the details of what happened in this place, you basically come to grips with the idea that you're going to be messed with, a lot, in what is essentially an empty building of horrors. You'll pick up a lighter at the start for the dark areas and in case anything needs to be lit and can store whatever else you find to help get you through the maze of old-school college life, with the ultimate goal of getting out while finding out what happened.
The controls are pretty basic as you move the camera with your mouse and WASD to get around. There aren't a ton of key functions to do things in the game, so you won't be left wondering what to push in critical moments. The inventory system is pretty simple to as you can hold a limited number of items in 12 slots, with a remaining four to shift between for quick access. There are areas of the map that can be a little unresponsive if you don't approach them the right way. I got stuck on a couple ladders and had to jiggle my way free. But the controls are pretty well suited for the puzzle solving, which is a nice bonus as you're not fiddling around forever to get things to work.The bigger issue is when you get the electro-magnet and have to deal with pulling objects with it and helping maneuver around with it.
The game plays a lot like Amnesia, where there aren't really that many villains or monsters to ruin your life, but you are spooked like hell around multiple corners, Not to mention constantly being tortured and driven insane by the ramblings of former staffer's tape recordings you find throughout the place. A lot of how you get around and what you do depends on your tolerance for jump scares, creepy areas and getting scared to death by a creepy voice. Without getting into spoilers, there's a lot to the game that will have you wondering if things you encounter were by design or happy accidents in the designing.
Something that The Crow's Eye doesn't really excel at are the visuals and the voice acting. Some of the people you hear just don't feel believable, there's moments where you can hear the audio being clipped together as the actor read off a script and did their best to convey emotion. As for the university, it's an okay setting, but it definitely isn't the best-rendered environment it could have been. That isn't to say it sucks, I've played much, much worse in this genre with levels that looked worse than Minecraft. I'm just saying that could have taken a couple extra coats of paint and some nails to this before release.
The Crow's Eye is a fine mystery game with its own share of creepy stuff. It isn't that long of a game, enough material to keep you guessing about what exactly happened in this place, as well as how in the hell you got here to begin with. But I feel like some of the game is lacking in attention to detail—the game looks like it was made a decade ago, and if that's the style they were going for, good on them. But that isn't obvious, so it just feels like bad design work considering the kind of indie game designs we have today. It's totally worth playing for the story and the puzzles, but there isn't a lot left to really love about it.