Bird of Light: Sometimes the Light Doesn't Burn Bright Enough
Full Disclosure: I was given a review copy of this game
Bird of Light was developed by Roach Interactive and published by Black Shell Media. The story of the game revolves around a young girl named Tara, who moves from the city to the farm because she has asthma and is generally a sickly girl. It’s a promising start, right? It gives you a sense of where the character is coming from, where the story can possibly go from there. The story the game tries to tell is interesting and, by going to the steam page and looking at the description for the game, you can tell that the developers had an idea of what this game could be going into it.
Herein lies one of the many problems with Bird of Light.
The laundry list of problems start with the story.
The game itself is an endless runner-style, speed run-encouraged game with maze-like elements. Each story moment is told by a pause and a cut scene where you press a button to go through the dialogue of these incredibly atrocious looking animals. These poor things look like they’re waiting for death to take them, or that they’ve seen some serious trouble in their life. It tries to convey a story, but it doesn’t. Not only because of how they chose to make this story come across graphics-wise and gameplay-wise, but also because of this line they say:
“The gameplay is an abstract representation of Tara's search for The Truth.”
It isn’t portrayed by these scenes between the animals or between Tara. It also isn’t touched on in the gameplay, because by this strain of logic, being in a maze, finding the key and finding the exit, means that the mazes on the back of cereal boxes are also an abstract representation of a search for the truth.
As someone who is a fan of quirky indie games that have abstract meaning in them, like Immortal Defense or Antichamber, Bird of Light just falls flat. There’s a difference between being abstract and being obtuse. Bird of Light, unfortunately, leans more into the obtuse category.
It only works as a speedrunner and even that's a stretch.
Let's talk about the gameplay: the objective of the game is to either run through the level as fast as possible after getting the key, gathering up all the blue eggs in addition to the key to finish the level, or gathering up all the blue eggs and the key in a certain amount of time. If those last two things sounded similar to one another, that’s because they’re identical other than doing it within a time limit.
Instead of putting in another unique objective, they just added another speed running one, which is fine in theory. If you’re into speed running and that’s your primary focus for a game, you’ll like this aspect of the game. If you want more variety than that, you’ll be disappointed. There are variations in each maze, like flight and portals, but it’s not enough to break up the monotonous nature of it.
That said, the speed running aspects of this Bird of Light is easily the best part, since it provides a modicum amount of challenge with the platforming aspects. It also has a leaderboard system, allowing you to test your skills against people from all around the world.
There are variations in each maze, like flight and portals, but it’s not enough to break up the monotonous nature of it. That said, the speed running aspects of this Bird of Light is easily the best part, since it provides a modicum amount of challenge with the platforming aspects It also leaderboard system it allows you to test your skills against people from all around the world.
Whats the point of pointing problems out if you aren't going to fix them?
Bird of Light’s overworld map allows the player to put together the path you’re going to take in order to reach your goal and if you mess up you have to restart the level to fix it. Throughout the levels you can collect tokens that gives you the ability to reveal certain areas of the map, like where the key is or where the blue eggs are, which makes your journey easier.
The sound design is basic, you make a noise when you turn, you make a noise when you jump, and you make a noise when you fly or take a portal. They make the noises that you expect them to make. However, there is an itty-bitty issue with the fact that the music in this game never changes. It’s a jaunty barnyard sounding tune that just loops in the background for eternity. It's downright lobotomy-inducing.
When controlling the character Tara, you have to navigate your way through the maze, turning left and right, jumping and so on and so forth. The camera is dizzying at times and it's been known to make people sick while playing the game. Bird Of Light helpfully tells you that if you’re feeling this way, pause the game! Which implies that we hadn't thought of that originally, rather than actually fixing the problem which has been complained about.
Image Credit: Gamers Haven
For those of you who were born in the United States, or who have been to the pediatrician’s office in the United States, you may be familiar with a magazine called “Highlights for Children” which tends to have various puzzles like mazes for the kids to solve; the mazes in Bird of Light are on par with that. They require simple problem-solving skills to get through them and require some trial and error. If you don’t gather the tokens and reveal the location of everything on every single map. Which makes this game a decent game for kids at the low, low price of 4.99, right? It’s not like the controls are incredibly finicky or anything are they?
Oh wait, yes they are.
Bird of Light's final nail in the coffin -- that I built for it -- are the controls and the countless clipping issues. I played this game with an Xbox 360 controller and a mouse because it says that it only has partial controller support, I didn’t think it meant “The controls works when they feel like it”, because that’s exactly what it does.
Image Credit: Gamers Haven
When you turn in Bird of Light, there’s a strong chance that it will not register the fact that you turned, or you might have pressed the joystick a little too hard and you go flying into a terrifying maelstrom of every element from the game before flying to your death. Or when you’re jumping with the blue feather, you’ll fly through the edge of the platform, causing you to fall into the abyss.
Bird of Light is a puddle deep game with any attempts at having meaning being completely ruined by the game's overall quality. It tries to soar high above others with dreams and cotton candy-coated tweets, but all it succeeds at doing is plummeting to the ground.