Ratalaika is back with another generously priced short-burst game that’s bound to entice the achievement hunters out there. Bird Game + offers a zen-like experience that sees you taking on the role of the titular bird, and then guiding it through a small range of linear levels as you work towards meeting and defeating its few boss encounters. There’s not really much to say about the ordeal overall. If anything, it’s exactly the sort of thing that, for better and for worse, we’ve come to expect from its publisher. Make of that what you will.
There’s no story present to soak up. You’ll boot up the game and will be taken to a clean and concise menu. Here, you can dive into the main mode, take to the endless mode, browse a few challenges (all of which are tied to those modes), or tweak a few settings; the most notable one being that you’re free to toggle a light/dark visual filter. The aim of the game couldn’t have been any simpler if it tried. You’ll guide the bird through a handful of moderately sized levels, come up against a boss, defeat said boss, and move to the next.
It’s really as simple as that. There are few mechanics to keep on track of throughout; such as holding X to fly faster to the left or right, tapping A to pick up items, or holding A to interact with a switch of some sort. These are introduced as progression is made, and it doesn’t really get any more in-depth than that. The game plays in third-person perspective, in which you’ll maneuver the bird with the thumbsticks, and in doing so, must dodge and overcome a collection of varying enemies and environmental hazards. It’s all rather easy to adapt to.
The game sports a black and white 3D aesthetic, one in which its world grows around you as you journey deeper through each level. What this means is that level assets will usually constantly pop-in from the horizon, and will then be given slightly more detail as you draw closer to said assets. It’s quite a smart way to do things, but the novelty does run dry rather quickly once you’ve spent even just an hour with it. The game’s design resembles that of a large, endless pond; lily pads, flowers, and other like-minded tidbits making up the trek.
Your life bar sits to the lower of the screen, and should you bump into anything, you’ll lose a small amount of it. If you completely deplete this bar, you’ll respawn (infinitely) from your last checkpoint. Checkpoints are scattered everywhere, with levels lasting roughly ten minutes per-whack on a fair run. The game’s enemies are pond-like too; dragonflies, butterflies, ladybirds and so forth, collectively doing all that they can to chip away at your health. That being said, it’s not at all hard to beat once you gel with the way it all plays out.
Much of your time spent playing Bird Game + will consist of aimlessly moving around the screen, dodging and avoiding whatever hazards are thrown your way. You do tend to have quite a healthy amount of reaction time, and due to how slow everything comes at you, it’s hard to fail. That in mind, there’s a lack of refinement to contend with. Several times I found myself taking damage through no fault of my own, but through issues that see the bird clipping hazards that seem impossible to avoid, simply due to how narrow things can get.
Passing through a gate, for example, means aligning the bird between the wooden panels that run the length of each gate. Though, when the gap between these panels are really tight, grouped with the fact that the bird seems to (at times) not register a movement command, you’ll see yourselves taking the odd bit of damage. That, however, is fairly easy to overlook when we take the generous checkpoint system into account, being that your respawn is never usually that far from your last failed attempt throughout play of each level.
There’s a few interesting level mechanics to make use of too, such as the ability to pick up fish for a quick health boost, or, the ability to fly into hoops for a speed boost, but nothing we’ve not seen a million times before. Once you reach the end of a level, you’ll need to overcome a boss before being shoehorned onto the next level. There’s no combat in Bird Game +, and instead, during these encounters, you’ll need to use your enemy’s traits against them in order to chip away at their health. Once again, it’s all relatively straightforward.
In fact, all you really need to do is avoid a few attacks before being given the ability to return the favor. The game’s second boss, for example, is a large toad that sits on a lily pad. This boss will occasionally bounce to create waves that you need to avoid, or, try and grab you with its lengthy tongue. When it’s expended all of its attacks, a bomb will float towards you that you need to pick up. Once you’ve done that, it’s a simple case of dropping said bomb onto the toad’s tongue, and then rinse and repeat the process a few times to win.
There’s very little depth on this front, and most move-sets are repeated in the same order, meaning that you’ll know exactly how to defeat a boss after just one round of attacks. It would have been nice to see more structure present, but, given the zen-like character of the game, I’m willing to forgive it for not being too stressful. When a boss is bested, you’ll move straight onto the next level, and will then repeat the same process until you hit the end game. When you’ve finished with the short main mode, the endless mode sits in wait.
Here, as expected, you’ll be thrown into an endless level in which the structure of play remains the same, only this time, you’re simply tasked with making it as far as you. You’ll unlock most of the game’s achievements quite easily, which hardly comes as a shocker from a Ratalaika game. Replay value can be found through seeking out a few secrets per-level, or, via working to reach top spot on the leaderboards. Outside of that, there’s little else to do. Though, again, for its cheap price of admission, it’s hard to scoff at what’s on offer.
In regards to the visual and audio design, Bird Game + is quite hit and miss. Whilst I initially enjoyed the game’s visual presentation, I cant say that I appreciated how lacking in detail everything is, even for a black and white game. The soundtrack, whilst nice and serene, does begin to frustrate before long. When all is said and done, with its drawbacks to the side, you’re getting a cheap game for a cheap cost. Nothing more, and nothing less. Those looking for quick-burst silliness or some easy Gamerscore will certainly get the most out of this.
Whilst it does manage to offer up a more relaxed take on the likes of Race the Sun, the game’s singular novelty, despite its short length, wears off a lot sooner than it should. Indeed, there’s enough content present to justify its very generous cost, but even so, it’s content that lacks variety, and as such, ultimately fails to remain interesting throughout. Those looking for silly, short bursts of fun, will get the most out of Bird Game +.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.