A Bird Story

A Bird Story is a short interactive story from developer Kan Gao, who was responsible for 2011's To The Moon. It is designed not as a sequel but as a bridge episode between Kan's To The Moon and the as yet unreleased Finding Paradise, hence the brevity. As I absolutely adored To The Moon's mix of humour, melancholy and storytelling, it was only natural that I check out this latest addition to the series.

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A young boy with absent parents, possibly bullied at school, makes friends with an injured bird, sharing adventures and finding solace from his lonely life. That's all the story there is, and that's all there needs to be. Much of the beauty of the tale is in the telling and here A Bird Story excels. Drifting across the boundaries of dream, imagination and memory, the story is told entirely without dialogue, with only beautiful pixel art animation to relate feelings and instructions. Even without words, or maybe because of this, it manages to be one of the most eloquent and heartfelt stories that I have experienced.

There is deep sadness in the game, but also moments of humour. As with To The Moon, Kan Gao deftly balances the mood of the game, allowing it to be sad and moving without ever being forced or over the top. I even chuckled out loud at a few points (a thinly veiled Benny Hill reference being one of the stand-out moments). The music really helps to set the tone as well, all wistful piano or ominous brass doing a great job at standing in for the lack of words.

Gameplay is minimal, less even than in To The Moon, with interactivity limited to occasional walking, item collection or puddle-splashing. As with the dialogue, interactivity isn't really necessary here. I was happy to be gently led through the story, pressing a few buttons when needed but otherwise soaking up the atmosphere and paying attention to the wonderful animation. It's only an hour or so long, but it's a story that will stay with you, so charmingly executed that it's almost impossible to resist playing through more than once.

A Bird Story will not be to everyone's taste, that's for sure. If like me you loved To The Moon or other interactive stories (such as Actual Sunlight or Always Sometimes Monsters), I really do recommend that you pick it up. It's available on Steam and GOG, and I would even recommend paying slightly more to get the version with the soundtrack.  

 

ReviewTom Woolford