Crow (Sunside Inc.) – $4.99

The amount of developers the AppStore has opened it’s arms to is pretty much unfathomable. With hundreds of releases every week, it’s really hard to wrap your head around how many apps the AppStore really has. This is both good and bad, as there’s loads of games that you might have to sift through before finding one that you’ll enjoy enough to play through til the end, but there’s also those rare occasions that you’ll be able to come across a game that totally blows you away, and you can’t help but feel lucky to be able to have such a wide range of games available to you. There’s also few games available in the AppStore that are described better as games you experience than games you play. Infinity Blade, Windosill, Waking Mars, Machinarium, Bumpy Road, and Superbrothers: Sword & Sorcery all come to mind as being more games focusing on a mesh of musical and artistic expression. Sunside Inc., a small 2 man development team’s new release, Crow, is definitely a game to add to that list.

Crow is a unique adventure game that takes you through the story of a Crow facing off against different forces, deciding whether to take the path of good or evil. With each boss encounter you have, you’ll be able to choose between cursing the enemy, or letting them go, both having different outcomes throughout the game, including the appearance of your crow.
The game is split into two different gameplay modes, the world map, and dungeons. While on the world map, you’ll explore the scenery, looking for trinkets, challenge levels, story points, and enemy encounters. During this section of the game, the controls might take a little getting use to. To move around, you need to hold on the screen in the direction you want the crow to fly, and tap to stop and hover. As you uncover the various items and interesting points throughout the level, you’ll need to tap on them to pick them up, set off the cut-scene and dialogue for the story, or activate the enemy battle or challenge level. In the challenge levels and enemy fights, or, the dungeon areas, controlling is a bit different. You’ll need to slide your finger around anywhere on the screen to move your crow around while you’re taken through the stage on pre-set path (rail). To attack, you’ll need to collect the orbs of energy until the circle in the lower left portion of the screen lights up, then tap on it, and be taken to the attack screen. Here, you can either attack by swiping where you want to attack, or draw a circle, and activate a shield.
Once you complete the challenge level or enemy battle, you’re taken to a results screen, where you’re able to see if you collected all of the orbs, trinkets, lost any health, completed the level under the par time, and what difficulty you completed the level on, all adding up to your total score. If you’d like to try and do better, you can reset your score, and replay the level. This option is only available for the challenge and enemy levels, and does not extend to the boss battles.

Each world is split into separate levels, with the first level being the exploration you’ll do before the first enemy battle, then the second level being after with separate trinkets and challenge levels found in both. Once you collect enough trinkets, you’re given a skill point, which you can use to upgrade how long your shield lasts, how quickly you regenerate health and magical energy, and how much energy it takes to attack. As you progress through the game, and depending on how you deal with the bosses, you’ll be given options to upgrade different abilities as well.
The graphics in Crow are top notch. There’s actually very few games in the AppStore that even come close to looking as good as this title, which is very impressive considering the game was developed by 2 guys who made their own engine, Radiance, for the game to run in. The story is very engaging, and well written, with the voice acting above par as well. The music is also a high point within the game, and really brings the whole package together, making it an incredibly immersive and entertaining gaming experience.

Most of the replay value is in high-score chasing and achievements. To get perfect scores on the 2 Challenge Levels and Enemy Battles in each world, you need to collect all of the energy orbs, all of the trinkets, and not take any damage from the environmental hazards. Once you get further into the game, these challenge levels get tougher and tougher, requiring you to really pay attention to everything that you’re flying towards, and almost perfect timing. The Guardian and Boss Battles are scored on the trinkets, energy, and health as well, but also include finding all of the story points that are available before the enemy level, a time bonus if you can beat the enemy level under the par time and a difficulty level bonus.

Needless to say, there’s quite a bit that you’ll need to do in order to maximize your score, which is also tracked by GameCenter, so if you’re a high-score chaser, you can compete for the best time with friends, and other players. Included with the GameCenter leaderboard are 18 achievements which will require multiple play-throughs, some of which will be very challenging to unlock, giving the game tons of replay value, which is a good thing, because completing the game only takes about 2 hours. There’s even an achievement for beating the game in under 35 minutes, so once you know your way around the worlds, you can complete the game fairly quickly. But being Universal, and only $5, you’ll definitely get your moneys worth. The gameplay is solid, the atmospheres, graphics, music, and story all blend together perfectly. However, if you’re looking for an adventure game with a long story that doesn’t focus on multiple play-throughs, chances are Crow will not be what you’re looking for. But if you’re trying to find a unique gameplay experience for your iDevice, Sunside Inc has definitely delivered a game with loads of depth below the surface. It’ll be hard for them to match this quality with future games, but they’ve, without question, made a solid name for themselves in the iOS development community, and I hope to see more games of this caliber hit the AppStore in the future.

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