‘A Bird Story’ Review
Platforms PC, Mac, Linux
Publisher/Developer Freebird Games
Genre Interactive Story Telling Platform Played PC
A Bird Story is reminiscent of classic Pixar short films, avoiding dialogue and text to provide exposition. Instead it relies heavily on a visual experience in order to get an emotional reaction from the player. Players are not subjected to walls of text or long expositional cut scenes in order to follow the simple story, we are thrust into the world of an unnamed character and follow their story throughout an interactive section of their lives. In this sense, A Bird Story isn’t as much a game, as it is an interactive experience with slight gaming elements.
If the above focus on an emotional story intrigued, A Bird Story may very well be a memorable adventure. If however the idea of an interactive experience with very little gameplay doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then A Bird Story isn’t the game for you. Though these two statements may sound broad they are easily the defining factor as to whether or not you find enjoyment from A Bird Story. These aspects are A Bird Story greatest positive, but also its biggest drawback.
A Bird Story is a short interactive experience in which the player controls an unnamed young boy. The simple fact that we are never shown explanations as to who or why this kid is who he is allowed me to truly invest in his surroundings. There is no hand holding when it comes to exposition, you will either see the elements taking place or miss them entirely. When the young boy returns home to find it empty, only to find a note on the fridge, it’s clear that his parents are absent. As he ventures into his room the note is placed on the ever-growing pile of notes – obviously this is a usual trend. Instead of wallowing in sadness, the boy does what any young child would do, and spends his time jumping on his parents large bed. It’s a simple scene, but it showcases the innocence of such a young child perfectly.
This young boy is not the hero of this story, nor is he the villain, he is simply a child dealing with a memorable and heartfelt moment of his life. Early on in this hour long adventure we see that this young boy doesn’t have many friends, despite his joyful personality and kind heart. These traits are expressed when the young man finds a lone and injured bird. After saving this young bird from harm the two befriend one another. It’s a simple story that many can relate too, the love between a pet and their owner is one we can all understand and the relationship these two form represents this well.
The relationship between these two is the central theme of A Bird Story. Though their relationship is never explained with words, we understand the situation and how this relationship is an important part of each other’s life. One of my favourite scenes in A Bird Story is when we see a compilation of this relationship beginning to prosper. It is a fun series of events that showcases the strength of their friendship well. A Bird Story excels during these emotional moments, making you feel joy, sadness and laughter all without a single piece of text or explanation. In this regard A Bird Story is a true success, providing an emotional tale that many titles struggle to provide with hours of written exposition.
This is majorly attributed to the incredible soundtrack, which plays a huge part in setting the correct mood and emotion throughout. Lacking the ability to simply tell us how to feel, the music itself helps give context to the scenes taking place. The whimsical soundtrack was a joy to behold, helping push the story to an even greater emotional level than it could have on its own.
A Bird Story showcases the childish innocence of this young boy, whether jumping on the bed, imagining he can fly, or leaving his umbrella home so he is able to play in the rain and jump in the puddles. However, it’s clear A Bird Story has a deeper story to tell.
Every other character in A Bird Story is a shadow, they are not detailed and their lack of visual description led me to believe the young boy felt like an outcast, a loner amongst a sea of empty faces. Not only that but the constant merging of nature and urban areas through scene transitions made me believe he felt out of place in this urban environment, with his obsession to fly not only being a child-like fantasy but also a means to escape and be free. What is incredibly brilliant about A Bird Story is that someone could complete this experience and never encounter these thoughts.
A Bird Story also contains many out-of-this world moments, which can be interpreted in many ways. The young boy in question is a big day dreamer and he has a wild imagination – like most children do – which could explain many of the unworldly moments in this adventure. Though these moments could also be interpreted in another way, one that touches on the psychological facets of a child. To the Moon (Kan Gao’s previous work) touched on mental disorders in a tasteful manner, which makes me believe he could certainly be implying these aspects once more. Are these moments simply day dreams from a child’s mind? Or are they the root of a deeper issue that a child who has been neglected by his family and friends? Due to the lack of context there is no definite answer, but there is certainly a deeper story throughout A Bird Story for those who choose to find it.
As previously mentioned, A Bird Story’s greatest positive is also its biggest issue. In a sense A Bird Story isn’t a game and the lack of gameplay only emphasises that fact. It’s as if most of the gameplay aspects actually feel out of place. Small instances where we are told to find certain objects before leaving for school, or to keep our bird happy make sense in the context of the story. But when extended “gamey” moments take place, they removed me from the experience at hand. The main culprit took place mid-way through A Bird Story where we were tasked to search a series of nests for the birds parents, it isn’t necessary a lengthy segment but it felt out of place amongst a story driven tale such as this.
Those who have experienced visual novel gaming experiences (Danganronpa, Virtue’s Last Reward) will understand that these titles are narrative based and tend to focus on that aspects throughout. A Bird Story knows where it stands for the most part, which is where this title will become a polarising experience. Gamers looking for an emotional tale may find the lack of gameplay off putting, while those who have had experience with these types of titles will find an enthralling journey. It’s obvious that A Bird Story isn’t for everyone, and those entering this world expecting something different may be let down.
Creating a story-focussed experience that lacks any textual information or dialog exposition is a risky decision. Fortunately A Bird Story’s experience benefits from these features, allowing me to interpret the story for myself and encouraging me to find the deeper meaning behind these events. The “gamey” aspects within A Bird Story do feel out of place and this experience certainly isn’t for everyone.
A Bird Story is an excellent follow-up from To the Moon that provides a simple tale of a boy and a bird. One that those who spend the time to experience, will find to be a memorable and emotional encounter.
Representation of childlike innocence.
The relationship between the boy and his bird.
Brilliant story, without one piece of dialog or text.
A Bird Story isn’t for everyone.
“Gamey” elements feel out of place.