Bird Game Review
While Bird Game offers a peaceful “zen-like” experience through its euphoric soundtrack and gorgeous visuals, it’s a deceptively difficult bullet hell that masters the art of pain and fulfillment.
The Dark Souls of Bird Games
In Bird Game, you play as a bird with a simple task: don’t crash. During the first minute of the game it feels sincerely peaceful, as you’re meant to take in the minimalist visuals and soothing music. That’s when you die. Immediately, you think, “Hmm that was just a mistake, I wasn’t really paying attention.” Then, all of a sudden, a giant wooden log rolls directly into your path and obliterates you. Eventually, after being ambushed by dragonflies, spiders, and beetles, you realize you were not prepared to die. Bird Game escalates from excitedly pleasant to desk smashingly hard within seconds.
Yet, the difficulty isn’t simply arbitrary. Every detail about the enemies’ movement is deliberate; it’s all about memorization and some swift flightwork. Take the beetles for example. They may be the absolute bane of my existence, but I know it’s my fault when they kill me, because they each have distinct flight patterns. That doesn’t stop me from slamming my desk though.
The true pinnacle of the pain that this game has to offer are its boss fights. Every boss has four stages, each stage more ruthless than the last. Bosses constantly build on their attacks, swiftly combining new and old moves to create a wave of nonsense flurrying at you.
The most memorable—and painful—example of this is the way the final boss mixes his beetle attacks. I spent at least an hour fighting that unrelenting snake because of how ridiculous his move-set was. You have to memorize the way each beetle arrives on screen before they even get to you to understand their attacks. If you mistake one beetle set for another, it’s pretty much over for that run. It’s imperative that you save as much health as possible through the fight because the last stretch feels almost impossible to dodge. This is by far one of the most intense adrenaline inducing bosses I’ve ever fought in my video game career.
The Art of Progression
The reward for Bird Game’s pain and suffering is the way the progression system works. After every boss fight, you unlock a new ability that weaves itself into each level and subsequent boss fight, vigorously pushing the limits of the game’s minimalist mechanics to create more intricate and challenging levels.
With each new stage, Bird Game combines everything you’ve learned and conditions you to memorize its teachings through recurring death. The three abilities—glide, grab, and roll—are simple mechanics on the surface. They grant the ease of mobility and allow for creative flightwork, meanwhile the levels adapt to ensure the abilities don’t forgo the difficulty. It’s the way the game builds upon each new mechanic that truly makes it feel like each ability is an extension of the bird.
The Beauty of Zen
The minimalist art form that Bird Game introduces immediately envelops you into its world. What’s more, its hypnotic guitar riffs during stages and catchy percussion during boss fights mesmerize anyone lucky enough to catch its tune.
While the most alluring aspect of Bird Game is its visuals and soundtrack, it’s the little details that make it shine.
For example, there is an option to invert the color of the game from white to black. It’s a simple color change, but when the whole game revolves around two colors, it creates a unique atmosphere to embrace.
Bird Game’s immersive journey also comes from the way it seamlessly transitions between stages and respawning. It almost feels as if you simply paused and unpaused. You’re free to be captivated and drawn into this bird’s journey without a break in immersion… or pain.
The game builds on that immersion with the addition of multiple paths and secret areas. While only having found one secret area so far, it’s clear that Bird Game once again visually deceives you. It may seem like there is only one path, but in reality, there are many. Bird Game is packed with incredible detail; Bryan Tabor clearly understands what makes a fun game.
The Flaw of the Bird
Bird Game may be one of the most intense and unique indie games I’ve played, but there are fundamental problems that do take away from the experience.
A critical issue with its gameplay mechanics is its depth perception. Whether it’s because of the art style or the camera angle, it’s occasionally hard to tell if you’re going to fit somewhere or not. You can definitely have a good idea of where you’re going more times than not, but the issue still exists, and it can cost you your run.
Another gameplay issue, which caused the final boss to be even more infuriating, was getting phased into the beetles. If I didn’t have enough time to dodge them, the bird would get stuck inside them and die, rather than the invincibility frames allowing the bird to get free.
Bird Game runs most smoothly with a controller, and what destroys this experience was the lack of controller support. At first, the game claimed that B was the button to respawn, even though it was A. Then, at the beginning of the game, it introduces the first rolling log. This is where it teaches you how to glide, but It said that A was the glide button. Naturally, I was confused, and convinced that it was broken, so i switched to keyboard.
Eventually, I switched back to the controller to further test it. I soon realized that respawn and glide were the same buttons. This worked out until the grab button was introduced, as it's meant to be tied to the same button you use to respawn. Due to the number of actions already tied to one button, grab simply doesn’t exist. I was forced to play on a keyboard which made the whole game, especially the final boss, even more painful—physically and mentally.
The beauty of these flaws is that they’re certainly fixable, which can hopefully be seen through future updates.
The Heart of the Soaring Indie
Bird Game is a true gem among the endless wave of recycled indie games. The aural and visual sensation of bliss parred with the destruction of one’s mind is what Souls players seek in a game. You will appreciate the fulfillment of victory after slaying the final boss, sighing deeply, adrenaline coursing through your veins. All the while the end credits play, and one final line pops up on your screen to brighten your day. “Hardcore Mode Unlocked.”
|Gorgeous Visuals||Poor Depth Perception|
|Hypnotic Soundtrack||Broken Controller Support|
|Deceptively Difficult||Nonfunctional Invincibility Frames|
|“Hardcore Mode Unlocked”|