Crows Crows Crows Continues To Charm With “The Temple of No”

Crows Crows Crows is the English-based independent developer behind last year’s Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist, also catchily known as DL,TT,aTTCE:AWH. A complimentary game, the Steam store trailer promised an action-packed heist romp. Upon loading into the game however, it becomes apparent that there’s only room enough for  one player at a time. The game’s backstage team have gone on strike thanks to terrible working conditions, and it’s up to you to press the switches behind the scenes directed by Simon Amstell’s voice while a fictional “player” makes their way through the game. Think The Stanley Parable, but more linear, yet lacking none of the charm or subversion.

Dr Langeskov wasn’t just a neat thumbing of the nose towards AAA game development, but a proof of concept of sorts for Crows Crows Crows: hearts full of whimsy, eyes set on the creation of “experimental games”. While Dr Langeskov’s Stanley Parable comparison is obvious, the game’s sharp wit and unique writing style certainly grabbed people’s attention and established the spirit of the studio.

Since then, Crows Crows Crows has been largely silent. There’s a weird puzzle game on their website, Report A.807, which consists of Police report details covering several burglaries around Europe. I almost didn’t stumble across the game myself; there’s a small folder icon labelled “A.807” right at the bottom of the screen that I’d predict most will either not see or outright disregard.

On Monday, Crows Crows Crows released another small complimentary game on itch.io. It’s an interactive story game made in Twine, and it’s called The Temple of No. As one amongst many delighted by Dr Langeskov, I soon set aside some time to play through it.

It’s only 10-15 minutes long, but The Temple of No is a delightful diversion for that duration. I’m not going to reveal anything else about the game; it’s a shot of simple joy that is best consumed unspoiled. Expect a slew of chuckles, a sea of personality, and a dozen tiny surprises. If nothing else, this game proves that Crows Crows Crows has the writing chops to charm and captivate its audience more than once.

Every way I look at it, Crows Crows Crows seems to be onto a winning strategy. They’re steadily drip-feeding us with tiny flashes of brilliance to remind us who they are and why we should care about them. For a small studio, that’s incredibly valuable. For the consumer, there’s a certain comfort in testing a studio’s output before eventually laying down money for their first proper release.

Not every indie developer can muster the resources to chase such a system. It definitely helps that the team’s made up of successful creatives like William Pugh and Jack de Quidt who’re doubtless in a much stronger position in terms of funding than the average small independent developer. Still, I have high hopes that this strategy might be as disruptive as The Stanley Parable was a few years back, with more developers following suit. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, go and enjoy The Temple of No. You’ve deserved it. Bring headphones and be ready to grin.

Dr. Langeskov: The Middle Finger to AAA

A few days ago, a curious little game appeared on Steam. A “complimentary” game (that is, it’s free, not free-to-play but completely free) from new studio Crows Crows Crows, Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist (hereby referred to as Dr. Langeskov, because DLTTaTTCE:AWH, while amusing, is a pain in the arm to type out) has made quite the viral impact on the gaming community.

It’s a really interesting little experience. Fans of The Stanley Parable may recognise the name William Pugh as on of the main designers alongside Davey Wreden on the standalone release, and that makes sense given Dr. Langeskov’s similar style of narrative and game design. If you haven’t played the game yet, then you really should invest the 20 minutes it takes to play through the thing. If you need a little bit more context to pique your interest, then I’ll give you as broad a summary as I can: you’re following instructions from the disembodied voice of Simon Amstell to run several environmental effects, backstage in an action heist video game.

The game is spearheaded by Amstell’s wonderfully awkward character (think Wheatley from Portal 2) as he struggles to keep the game running with the fictional game company’s backstage crew on strike, hence the need for the player to work the effects for an unseen player’s benefit. The game feels like a bit of a poke at game development companies whose employees are mistreated or overworked, especially in light of recent revelations about Konami, as well as the more obvious Stanley Parable- esque commentary on player-game interactions.

Although limited in scope, Dr. Langeskov is a very tightly crafted piece of work. Although made using the Source engine, the environments shine through the placement of lots of visual gags including post-it notes and letters of resignation from disgruntled employees of the fictional development team of the game. The real charm comes from the excellent writing evident in Amstell’s narration, along with his natural talent with comic timing and pacing. While I didn’t laugh out loud, I was certainly smiling the whole way through the game.

I’ve got to say, this is a hell of a way to introduce yourself to the world as a new studio. Crows Crows Crows (these guys are really into names that are a pain to type, huh) have produced a delightful gem to showcase their considerable talents, and it’s really payed off; I’m sure a ton of people will really pay attention to whatever they turn out next. And I really hope that’s the case. Because in a world where the AAA companies seem afraid to experiment and push boundaries in favour of safe money, it’s great to see that this small team is very willing to to produce a very polished little experiment, so that next time, players know that their offerings are worth the money.