I’m a gamer. Sort of. No, I’m definitely a gamer, I’m just not your stereotypical 22-year-old guy in his mother’s basement, chugging Mountain Dew, eating Doritos and cursing out small children during group play in Call of Duty type of gamer. I fall more into the label that they call a “Casual Gamer” – most of the video games that I play are on my iPhone, or I play a few on my computer for a little while, and then lose interest in them. That doesn’t make me any less of a gamer…I’m just not as intense as some of my acquaintances who like to decompress at the end of the day by building space empires.
Lucky for me, people like my boyfriend understand this, and so one of my Christmas presents this year was a little game called “A Bird Story”. I’m almost hesitant to call it a game, because it’s really a story as the name implies with a few moments for control where you are guided along the path.
It’s the story of a lonely child, who wanders into the woods on his way home from school and sees a bird being attacked by a badger (I can’t tell you how quickly “Badger Badger Badger” popped into my head, because it was just there, waiting). He cares for the bird, taking it to a veterinarian, and then bonding with it and going on some adventures. And these adventures are trippy.
You get a taste of what the “trippiness” might entail at the 1:10 marker of the trailer above, and yes, it does include a giant paper airplane. All of the non-boy characters are the odd shadow-people that you can see in the trailer, and there isn’t really any dialogue. The whole thing lasts about an hour.
So – what did I think? It was…interesting. I’m glad that my boyfriend didn’t pay more than $2 for it (yay Steam Sale!), because as mentioned above, you don’t have a lot of control. Most of the game is more movie-like, and involves watching the characters do their thing. Occasionally you get the chance to move the character along his path, but it’s not meaningful control – most of the time you must follow the path, or else you’re stuck. Sure, you have the chance to splash in some puddles, and maybe jump on a bed, but it’s not a real choice – you’re TOLD to do those things. There are even times when you are forced to go forward, and if you try to move in the opposite direction, the game moves you in the direction it wants instead.
What I wish for “A Bird Story” is that instead of trying to be a game, that it was just a short film. Watching the boy character and his beautiful, odd journey with the bird would be just as meaningful without the infrequent and limited control by the player. It would also help if there were some way to pause and exit the game, because once you start, you have to finish because there is no “saving”. This meant that the couple days it took me to find time to play meant that I had the haunting music popping out of my speakers every time I opened my laptop, hoping to do something else (something slightly more productive, even?).
Would I “play” it again? Nope – that achievement has been unlocked. Would I recommend it to a friend? Not for more than $2.
More Information: “A Bird Story”, by Freebird Games.