I apologise for two things before I start this review. Firstly, and this might seem a bit weird, but I apologise for the fact I am creating a break in my so far complete list of No-English Moviember posts. I know it seems weird but I shall look back at this with a slight pain in my festering heart that I broke the chain of No-English Moviember reviews.
Secondly, and more importantly, I apologise for the fact that this review took so long to do after the game’s release. Writing this precisely two weeks after the release of A Bird Story, I only realised the game was out on the 10th despite writing about it in my To the Moon review as well as taking a further three days to be able to play it since Steam kept saying “Missing Executable”.
Much thanks to Kan “Reives” Gao, the game’s creator, for the help on the Steam forums for getting this game working (apparently Norton was blocking it as a Trojan file) and now I have played the game. So with the beating around the bush over, let’s march on to that ever Promised Land: to that bountiful field that grows the sweetest of fruits, the obligatory overview!
The voiceless story shows the life of a young boy who is quite alone in the world. His parents communicate to him solely in notes left around the house, he is friendless at school, leading him to make paper aeroplanes and to while away the time by looking out to a freer existence beyond the confines of his life commuting between the walls of his school and the tower block he lives in.
But then, when returning home from school one day, he sees an injured bird being chased by a badger, after chasing off the badger, the bird sneaks into the boys rucksack. After realising the bird’s stealth mission, the boy decides to sneak him home and to keep him as a pet. From such humble origins does the path of adulthood grow, allowing the player to see how the bird and boy’s partnership help them both to grow and become stronger.
One thing that Gao has been stating repeatedly on Twitter is this:
To be fair to Gao, it isn’t and he sums up why very well in his interview with Indiesider, saying that A Bird Story is more minimalist and that, while A Bird Story is a short, To the Moon is the feature. In this Gao is, obviously, bang on the money. A Bird Story is only an hour long or so compared the three to four hours of gameplay of To the Moon, yet that that is not to say that less gameplay means less enjoyment.
While a different style to its predecessor, A Bird Story does retain one element from its forbear that may leave customers satisfied, and that is its sense of humour. While (most) of the pop-culture references and witty dialogue are gone, they are replaced by sublime visual humour, aided by the accompanying music that can leave you in stitches.
But this game is not solely about humour, it’s about a story and in that regard it is unique. Whereas game have a story to show off game mechanics, this game, like To the Moon, is solely used to tell a story, with little to no gimmicks put in the story’s way. You won’t find any “Hold X to Pay Respects” here.
The story is beautiful as it hold your attention in a way few other games can. There’s no restart because you died or did something wrong, there are no multiple endings are there is no hidden content. It’s all there for you to see like a book or music and you are left to extrapolate its full meaning, but with an interactive element that leave you more invested in the story.
The best way I can describe it is that, despite the fact there is only one set of things you can do, you are doing them and are setting your character’s course. It is not like a novel where the character’s course has been set by an outside force and can only move one way, A Bird Story allows you to be in the character’s shoes and direct him along the story himself. Although it is written to go one way like an author, it allows you to see yourself more in the character than a book because you are physically controlling his actions.
A Bird Story is a brilliant morsel for things to come as, while it won’t be like other games to come from Kan Gao and Freebird Games, it links into the next game Finding Paradise with the tantalising phrase “To be released one day”. I do hope one day is sooner rather than later as A Bird Story, with its innovative use of music, storytelling and interactive mechanics makes for a game that punches way above its own weight.
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