Evil beings get a bad reputation. I mean, does an inherently evil creature ever get tired of being bad? Do they ever stop, look at their actions and think: “Is there more to this life than doing horrendous deeds?”
Crowman & Wolfboy is the tale of two such beings, longing for something better in a monochromatic world that has long been abandoned by humanity. They set upon a quest to find a better life for themselves, but they are soon pursued by their nasty brethren – shadow beings that aren’t particularly pleased about deserters.
First gameplay impressions would suggest that this is yet another endless runner for mobile devices. Auto running? Check. Minimal controls? Check. Arty graphics? Check. It is true that Crowman & Wolfboy shares many similarities with the App Store’s bread-and-butter genre, but there are enough amendments and additions to the formula that separate it from it’s peers.
More of a platformer that happens to feature auto running than a typical auto runner, you’ll find yourself needing to change directions with a swipe to the left or right, and jump at different velocities by swiping up and holding for a longer airtime. A wall of shadows will be following you at every turn, an instant death upon contact, but this omnipresent creature can be temporarily shaken off by collecting the various light orbs that can be found in each of the game’s 30 levels. These orbs can also be used to purchase non-gameplay related extras that provide a little more information about the world that Crowman & Wolfboy inhabit. These orbs can also be purchased via in-app purchases, but are completely unnecessary and detached from the game itself.
More abilities are collected throughout the journey, which in a cue from Metroid and Castlevania-styled games. These allow you to further explore previous levels to collect pick-ups, such as baby creatures and hidden power-ups. It adds a fair amount of extra content to a game that can be initially rushed through in an hour or two. These new abilities range from being able to duck or attack and are well-spaced out, ensuring that there are enough new things to see. Each level is also filled with alternative paths and hidden areas, adding a little variation to the mix.
That’s a good thing, too, because while the graphics are stylised and well animated, the constant greys and blacks can initially make this game seem a little dull. That’s not to say there isn’t enough visual variety here, because the environments do regularly change as well as the hazards that lie in your path. It’s just that, alongside the beautifully haunting soundtrack (which is really great, worth listening to with headphones) everything just seems so bleak. Which is the point, I suppose, although thankfully there is enough charm in visuals to keep the game ticking over nicely to the end.
The controls work very well, especially considering you have more direct control than a game like Rayman Fiesta Run. Every ability at your disposal can be performed with one finger: mainly by swiping. The controls feel more precise than you would imagine, and 99% of my deaths during play were mainly due to my own skills as opposed to issues with controls – an achievement, considering there’s a lot of swiping in different directions and there are moments where a bit of precision is required in terms of platforming. It helps that the flow of Crowman & Wolfboy is relatively slow when compared to other games of this type, although that doesn’t make for an easier game. Later levels in particular can be quite challenging, especially when you have a constant threat ready to catch you if you’re too slow and have been avoiding those necessary light orbs.
VERDICT: Haunting, atmospheric and highly playable, Crowman & Wolfboy adds just enough depth and content to make it more than your average auto-runner, while a Metroid-Vania-like approach to new abilities and level exploration add some real replay value to an enjoyable game.
VERY GOOD. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.
Review code provided by publisher.