The King’s Bird is an emotionally uplifting game which pleases gamers with visual and musical splendour but is held back by some puzzling design choices. The story is told almost entirely visually, with dialogue spoken through musical tones from each character’s mouth. In the narrative, players control a nameless young girl, who has always had the dream of flying throughout the world, free from bonds and control. Despite this, however, she is refused her freedom from her elder, who places an indestructible, magical ring sphere around her. Determined to free herself, the girl must travel through forests and abandoned marketplaces and areas, with the few powers she possesses, to find a way to release herself from the enchantment and win back her freedom.
Played as a 2-Dimensional platformer, players control the girl, who must run, jump, and glide between platforms and ledges to reach the end of each area. As levels continue, the individual platform areas become increasingly complex and further demand players to take a more tactical approach on how to overcome what blocks them. The gameplay is both one of the game’s greatest achievements, but also its largest shortcoming. With positives first, the overall pace of the game is immensely satisfying. Being able to scale high walls at spectacular speeds and to glide around in mid-air are easily the most enjoyable moments in the game. These moments are further improved by the fluid animations of the girl and the solid special effects of her bright flying cloak. The levels also have strong points as well. the various layouts of individual platforming sections encourage players to use their heads to try to figure out how to pass them. For the most part, they are designed well and they allow players to perform excellent stunts while trying to get to each area’s final stage, which also provides a strong sense of satisfaction.
What disrupts these moments of enjoyment, however, comes from the game’s inconsistent difficulty. One of the main factors that contribute to the game’s extreme difficulty is the control system. Instead of using the mouse, players are limited to the Z, X, and directional keys on the keyboard. Z is used to jump, holding x allows players to glide or slide down steep ledges, and the directional keys are used for basic movement on foot. Besides players who may not be used to playing without a mouse, trying to memorise each button and the different techniques required becomes a challenge of its own. The opening level’s tutorial does a serviceable job of providing exercises of how each technique is performed and showing the buttons needed to initiate them, but it’s possible for players like myself to have difficulty remembering them throughout the game due to their complexity and these mistakes could cause multiple deaths.
The main source that causes the game’s difficulty to occasionally go off the rails, however, is the way in which many levels layout their most challenging areas. As players progress through each level, the levels often contain areas that are so complicated, that players may find themselves severely confused as to how they need to get through, to the point where they may get completely stuck on how to progress. One level, for example, requires players to glide from the floor, and up through a hole that is filled with deadly thorns. Areas like these are exceptionally difficult to understand and many players are bound to get completely stuck. The majority of areas do have a consistent level of difficulty to them, without providing too much, and they encourage players to use intelligent techniques on how to pass through certain platforms and glide across particularly lengthy pits, but when these areas of extreme difficulty emerge, the game could quickly become tedious. The game does provide a series of options for players to choose from, such as the option to slow down the entire game, and to allow themselves to become invulnerable to all surfaces, and while these options are helpful, they don’t do a service to players who want to try to complete levels without any help whatsoever. they also don’t exactly aid players with getting past areas they find too difficult, leaving them to continue to figure them out for themselves but to almost no avail.
The levels are often inconsistent and sometimes disrupts the satisfying movement and flying mechanics, but what cannot be denied throughout the entire game is the nature of the game’s visual style and tone. The King’s Bird is an absolutely gorgeous game, with lust and beautifully crafted environments and a light-hearted colour scheme for each level. In addition to the beautiful scenery, the game’s musical score is equally pleasant and fits in well with the game’s world and atmosphere. It’s these qualities that greatly improve the game’s overall value and kept me playing despite some of the annoyances. The only minor issue with the visuals is the frozen characters in the background, which don’t move in the slightest whilst the girl travels throughout levels.
The King’s Bird struggles with flaws in its level design and has complicated controls, and an inconsistent difficulty system. Despite these flaws, however, The King’s Bird is an emotionally satisfying experience, with a strong and effective emphasis on visual style and smooth gameplay mechanics. It doesn’t quite reach the height of a revolutionary title in the platforming genre due to its inconsistencies, but it’s nevertheless an enjoyable ride that provides a lot of what makes platformers enjoyable.
REVIEW CODE: A FREE Nintendo Switch code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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