The King’s Bird
Developer: Serenity Forge
Publisher: Graffiti Games
Platforms: Steam, PS4
A review on PS4 by Brooke Ali
The King’s Bird is a unique puzzle platformer in the visual style of Limbo, but avoids coming off as a Limbo-clone. What little story there is tells of a kingdom ruled by a despotic ruler and you’re trying to escape, while saving as many birds as possible. You start off in a kind of tenement community before discovering a mysterious man in a flowing white scarf who grants you your own scarf and the ability to glide. The intro/tutorial provides a series of pictograms that explain the mechanics before you land in the first of a series of hub worlds where you access the actual levels.
The graphics are striking and beautiful. The backgrounds are a highly stylized monochrome with lines and edges reminiscent of Mayan design. A much darker foreground marks out the play area that you must navigate while collecting birds. Everything is a series of layered silhouettes that keeps the view interesting without being so cluttered that you can’t tell where you are. The character design is simple and delicate; not only do you get to glide through the air, but you move like a ballet dancer.
The music sounds like it could be one of those ambient sounds recordings designed to lull you into a nice, peaceful sleep. It’s all light flutes, violins, xylophones, melodic vocals, and bird chirps and fits perfectly with the art design. Honestly, I could happily put it on in the background as I sit and relax with a cup of tea. The ambient sound is also delightful. Instead of the usual “wahwah” sound that some games use to replace dialogue, your character sings her responses in a clear, bright soprano. When she interacts with the environment the audio responds, like making a light crunch sound when she lands on gravel. It’s details like this that make this game of soaring and gliding so grounded (excuse the pun).
The controls for the game are relatively simple, everything you do is a mix of jump, glide, or soar… but simple doesn’t mean easy. It took some time to develop the requisite muscle memory to really get the feeling of freedom that you’re looking for in a game like this. As a completionist I find it hard to leave a bird behind, so I would sometimes get frustrated as I dove head first into some brambles over and over again until I finally managed it. Despite the calming nature of the graphics and sound, I found this wasn’t a game I could relax to after putting my kindergarteners to bed; I didn’t have the focus to play without getting frustrated giving up. Also, because of the relative size of the player character to the screen it was sometimes tricky to follow her from my seat on the couch several feet away from the TV. I found much more success playing in the afternoon in my office where I could sit closer to the TV. But then, I’m also very near-sighted, so take from that what you will.
This game is a speed runner’s dream but could prove a little more difficult for a player who likes to stop and regroup at each check point; the success is in the flow that you achieve while playing and will take several playthroughs to really master each level. It’s a game that can be played by most but mastered by few. There are some really impressive speed runs out there on YouTube if you want to see what mastering the game really looks like.
Buy it! The King’s Bird is a game that is as beautiful as it is challenging. Getting the hang of the controls to the point where you’re gliding and jumping in a continuous flow through the mazes is really satisfying and worth the effort to achieve.
Rogues Portal received a PS4 code for this review.