To the Moon was a lovely tale and I remember how I teared up I was after the credits rolled. It was the first RPG-maker game I actually played through, which quickly made me search out other gems made with this program, such as Yume 2kki, the Lisa-series and Space Funeral. It really is fascinating to see how great (and at times how poor) a fan project can become. This made To the Moon quite important to me, as it was the reason for piquing my interest in this genre, if we can call it that. Because of this, I bought the developer’s next project, A Bird Story, the day it came out. However, I did not play it until one and a half month later. Why? Well, I wanted to share the experience with my sister as we often play games and watch series together. Unfortunately I was away for college and would not be done with my exams until closer to Christmas. After I got home, and finished it with my sister within an hour, I had a pleasant experience despite some shortcomings.
Emotional without a single word
The story is about a lonely boy, finding a bird with a damaged wing. It is quite a small tale as you might have guessed, but beautifully told through a simple, yet effective presentation. We see the events told through the boy’s perspective and imagination, such as how every person is just shadows with no faces or when the hallways at his school slowly turns into a forest. Giving such imaginative and at times symbolic presentation to the story, which reflects the main protagonist, is just lovely. What makes this aspect even stronger, is that no one utters a single word throughout the story. By doing so, it makes the boy’s relationship with the environment and the bird much stronger since it is shown through acting and interaction, making it more believable and emotional. Showing, instead of telling a story can be so much more.
However, while the imagination is good, it just felt a bit short in telling something more. There are some strong imaginations shown, but I think the possibility for more creative images could have been created, especially from a child. There are plenty of recreated areas seen in his neighborhood, and it feels a shame that he did not have more to showcase. It is also a small story, mostly focusing on the connection between the boy and the bird. While it is adorable, a bit more story to see around the kid’s world, could have gone a long way. Despite this, it is a heartwarming short tale, that should make you emotional for all the right reasons.
Story Score: 8/10
Somewhat interactive movie?
While the story and emotions are the clear focus, the interactions are very limited. You can move the child in 4 directions and interact with objects, but it might not even have needed that much. You are put on a straight line and will usually only move in one direction, making me feel like I was holding a button to make a movie play. There are some nice interactions, such as when you must press left and right to make bread crumbs, or when you can jump in puddles to create an atmosphere.
These are nice, but much more could have gone a long way to make the atmosphere more effective. In fact, many parts are more like cutscenes, as there will be segments where the game will move the character for you. It feels like it had potential to be a story-game, but with so minimal interaction, it becomes rather a movie with button-inputs. Not even quick time events, as those at least have some tensions to them.
Gameplay Score: 2.5/10
Through the eyes of a child
The pixelart is beautiful here. The colors are incredibly strong, areas are brimming with details and the lighting is impressive. What is more intriguing, however, is when the visuals are affected by the boy’s mood. When he is sad and depressed, areas become grey and brown, but as he gets a bigger connection with the bird, the colors become subtly stronger, making it an effective presentation. Our boy’s imaginative take on the real world is also well utilized, but as stated: could have gone a bit further as there are only some urban areas, a forest and the sky being used. The more realistic backgrounds do fit well with the pixel-arts thanks to a very good light-texture, despite them being different in quality and the animations our characters have are simple and minor, yet cute and effective. Similar to their designs as well.
The soundtrack is beautiful, with piano and plenty of string-instruments used, including acoustic guitar and violins. It all creates a memorable soundtrack that is endearing, with different moods and tunes, not unlike an actual J-RPG could have. Just like the visuals, it reflects the boy’s emotions perfectly and is definitely worth purchasing alone.
Presentation Score: 8.5/10
A Bird Story is a beautiful, small movie that tried to become a game. It is certainly cute with its minor interactions and I do love the few button input events, but the game is so streamlined that it really felt like a movie where 70% of the time I had to hold the play-button. If you are ok with taking this as a 1 hour movie or an experience rather than interactive media, you will find a lovely short tale, that most likely will touch your heart.