Birdland

by Brendan Patrick Hennessy profile

Teens
2015

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Number of Reviews: 14
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
A good punch of Weird with a long drag afterwards, November 26, 2019
by Oreolek (Kemerovo, Russia)
Related reviews: ifcomp2015

Bridget is a girl in a summer camp. She sees weird dreams. She sees weird things. It's weird.

Birdland is long and it constantly repeats itself. The dreams have the samey feel and by the third or the fourth they are boring. Between the "ah, so what's happening" and "okay, let's do something about it" moments there is a good chunk of just.. hanging around, I guess.

What's frustrating is lack of character details. I finished the game but I still don't know anything solid about the lead heroine. Most of the camp girls are flat or you don't see them enough because the game doesn't care. There are good characters but they are doomed to be the scenery.

It's a decent game, overall, for its background details and the punchy beginning. The ending's flat, though.


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Full of lovely dialogue and choices, September 15, 2019
by Greg Buchanan (United Kingdom)

“You dream you are the sheriff of a wild west town populated entirely by bird people."

Birdland has some of the best dialogue I've seen in an IF game -- not only for its believability, but how it helps characterise our protagonist through the range of choices on offer at each juncture. We get a sense of the way our mind works by seeing the kinds of things Bridget might do or say or lean towards, and even when we don't select options, the fact we saw them does a lot of subtle (but heavy) lifting.

The dream mechanic was excellent. We live vicariously in dreams and do things we wouldn't do in real life partly because we can and there is no consequence, just like we might do in a video game. The two levels of reality in this IF -- dream and real life -- and the stat-based overlap from what dream behaviour does to our state of mind, is really effective at delivering consequence for our vicarious, "wouldn't this be funny or fun" dream decisions. The skill of the author is in making us still treat those fun segments -as- dreams rather than somehow min-maxing our stats. And later in the game, as the dream logic seems to spill into everyday life, this plot strand is brought to its inevitably conclusion.

So much lovely stuff here, both comedic and coming-of-age. When we step-by-step get to make choices to write a bad sentence in French, or when I claim to my instructor that my poorly performed sport action is a "Lazy Susan", and they respond: "A) There's no stroke called a "Lazy Susan", B) if there was it I would expect it to involve some kind of circular motion."

So good. My only vague critique - and this is reaching - is that the pace of the IF led me to expect reasonably short sections broken up with choices, even if those choices just helped me personalise my character. So on the few occasions where there was a large amount of text on screen, especially those with huge paragraphs, it slowed down the flow quite a bit for me. Not a deal-breaker by any means as the quality of writing meant I was happy to read, but I think they could have benefited from being cut up a little considering their breach with usual pacing (apart from an excellent 'feathers' moment I won't spoil, which was completely amazing).


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
"State your job title." "Reviewer.", June 16, 2019

I'll make a confession straight away - I'm not a big fan of fiction about teenagers, and I'm even less of a fan of summer camps. If you are like me, don't worry - despite being about teenagers and set in a summer camp, Birdland is an incredible piece of interactive fiction that is enthralling from beginning to end.

It's a story of emotions and having (or not having) the freedom to express them; a story of youthful attraction, of coming to terms with one's inner nature; and it's a story of strange dreams and even stranger things within them.

The mechanic of determining what mood you are in - and therefore determining what choices are available to you at various points - may seem a little arbitrary at first, but there is a method to that madness, and it helps that the mechanic itself is hilarious.

All in all, a fantastic and well-crafted experience. Five plasma spheres.


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Consistent and engaging, September 18, 2018

What I like about this game is how consistent its themes are. The effect of introducing the characters as a cast, complete with beautiful illustrations, is sustained by the focus on dialogue and the names of the speakers for the rest of the game. I got the impression of reading the transcript of a play, especially with the date and time stamps at the start of every chapter. The mystery introduced in the very first dream, with regard to the strange speech styles of the bird-people, is also followed through in the other dreams and eventually acknowledged and resolved. As a result, the plot was believable and I didn't feel like there were any loose ends untied.

However, I felt somewhat disappointed with the dialogue, which occasionally tended towards melodrama. While I realise that emotional scenes are characteristic of young adult fiction, the scenes in which the protagonist exhibited strong emotion just felt too rushed, in my opinion, and my feelings for the character were disrupted as a result. On the other hand, the dialogue options provided for the player are excellent. Many lines of speech felt appropriate for the situation at hand, and I was happy to see that the game both provided and followed through on these options. The ability to pick the murderer felt particularly meaningful, even if its implications were not clear.

Another area that left me feeling a little unsatisfied was the protagonist's toned-down reaction to the increasingly odd behaviour of the counsellors. Considering a large part of her unwillingness to act out was due to her lack of faith in the validity of her dreams, it might have been better if the bit about her dreams bleeding into reality was emphasised more, so that her initially apathetic stance would have had a more realistic explanation. Still, the way the severity of the situation was ultimately acknowledged and dealt with felt very effective, with the success of the protagonist coming across as surprising yet plausible, a testament to the author's efforts in establishing the rigidness of the bird-people as a critical flaw.


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
YA Fiction for all ages, October 25, 2017
by Angharade
Related reviews: Young Adult

This is the first time I have enjoyed a twine-based game to the same degree as a parser game. The way the character's mood affected the outcomes was magnificent, unique and made me feel in control, even when I wasn't. The writing was sublime. I was not expecting to get so invested in the story, but the gameplay was so special and the underlying story so delicious, I had to keep going.

Minor criticisms: the romance between two of the characters felt lackluster at best. There was no real depiction of why these two would connect. (Spoiler - click to show)Bell is a frustrating humblebrag type, and the protagonist seems to be struggling with depression, which I really resonated with. However, the romance seemed forced, with little dialogue resembling connectivity.

I will say that the humor in this is absolutely wonderful for all, of any age, and that I thoroughly enjoyed the plot and story line. I stayed with it primarily for the dry wit. The portrait illustrations were an added plus.


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Wet Hot American Summer + The Birds + Inception = Birdland, July 27, 2017
by juliaofbath (Edinburgh, Scotland)
Related reviews: bird fiction, comedy

‘Birdland’, simply put, is one of the most entertaining interactive fiction games I have ever played. Margaret, the protagonist, navigates a technology restrictive summer camp during the day, and at night she must enact parody-like rhetorical scenarios in her dreams for an audience of bird-people with a robotic understanding of the English language.

(Spoiler - click to show)A highlight for me was the pirate dream scenario. It’s not often I have actual laugh-out-loud moments while reading IF, so it really took me by surprise to find myself guffawing heartily at the mechanical remarks of Pirate-Margaret’s bird-person first mate.

The actual mechanics of the game were engaging and really helped build intrigue in the plot. As the two plots (the real world and the dream world) slowly became more closely intertwined, the mood-check meter began forcing me down interesting paths, and in fact took the plot in a different direction than I had intended. Although a bit unsettling, this feature proved to be both an effective method of incorporating interactivity, and of mediating the truth of consequence.

This story, to me, demonstrates what interactive fiction should be: entertaining, though-provoking, surreal at times, and re-playable. I truly felt as though my decisions had palpable influence on the progression of the story, and I look forward to re-playing ‘Birdland’ soon.


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
A long, well-developed 'dramedy' about summer camp and dreams, June 26, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: IF Comp 2015, about 1 hour

This game from IFComp 2015 is, in my opinion, one of the best Twine games of all time, and certainly the best outside of the well-developed horror/darkness segment.

In this game, gameplay is split up between a summer camp with a slice-of-life scenario and dreams with an absurdist take on talking birds. As the game progresses, the two halves become more related.

The game takes a stats-based approach, with a twist. You develop statistics at night during your dreams; in the day, it affects what options you have for various activities. At first, I felt like the stats didn't matter, because scene follows scene in the same order regardless of your actions. However, on replay, I found that some of the best material is contained in stats-enabled actions.

This story is long and has several surprising turns. It's split into several days, each of which can be accessed independently in case you can't finish in one sitting. Because stats seem to be reset each night, I don't think you lose anything just skipping ahead.

The game includes some mild summer-camp-normal sexual references near the beginning, and one branch of one scene contains strong profanity.

Recommended for everyone.

Edit: When I played through again, I counted the distinct pages I viewed, and I took 234 choices/pages to complete the game.


0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Nice!, May 21, 2016

Pretty interesting and fun for a Twine game! The choices based on moods are brilliantly unique.


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Teens and birds, November 23, 2015
by CMG (NYC)

Birdland is a very long Twine story (probably at least novella-length for each playthrough) about teen girls at summer camp. They participate in standard camp activities like swimming, they gossip, and they fumble with their developing adolescent identities. This could've been horrible. All the ingredients are lined up for a sappy Hallmark special. But it's not horrible. It's great.

It's written in script format with occasional character illustrations (that are very nice; you can look at them all from the main menu, but they only show up once each in the game itself). What this means, of course, is that practically everything is conveyed through dialogue, and what that means is that major emphasis is put on character interaction. There is no flab. The game is laser-focused on these characters' mindsets.

I have the sense, although I could be mistaken, that you'll get the same overarching story no matter what choices you make. Which is no problem. It is a good story, not just about teen girls canoeing at summer camp, but about the dreams that the main character Bridget Leaside experiences -- strange dreams that seem to have ripple effects in the waking world.

Rather, what choices you make influence sub-scenes in the story by changing Bridget's mood, giving her access to certain actions or cutting them off. You're basically presented with different angles of approach to the same goals. What's especially thoughtful is how the game shows you every possible action, even if you can't choose one because you're in the wrong mood at the moment. This way you know what impact your decisions had. I am growing more and more fond of transparent game mechanics like this.

Since nearly all the writing is dialogue, the dialogue has to be good, and it is. Especially in the dream sequences, where humanoid birds speak to Bridget using stilted, mechanical language. Brendan Patrick Hennessy has a history writing stilted prose. You Will Select a Decision is all about the stilted prose. But whereas that was a pure comedy game, and the prose was stilted because it was meant to be a poor translation from Russian, in Birdland there's more going on. It's still funny in Birdland. The technique is just being used with more purpose.

Actually, Birdland feels like the natural next step after You Will Select a Decision and Bell Park, Youth Detective. Those games crashed together, refined themselves during the crash, and became Birdland. Bell Park herself is a central character in Birdland.

This game made me think about Wes Anderson movies. Moonrise Kingdom specifically. Kids who are more mature than the adults around them, but who are still kids learning how to survive. Kids who find themselves in over their heads as bizarre circumstances develop. Birdland is strong interactive fiction, pushing the medium more toward literature, which I completely support.


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Funny & Charming, November 19, 2015
by Felicity Banks (Canberra, Australia)
Related reviews: IFComp 2015

I was extremely impressed by the humour (including the way the birds talk, which is interesting since I usually detest unusual speech systems) and really enjoyed watching the world change as the story progressed. I laughed out loud and often.

The romance was gorgeous.

I felt a little frustrated by the passivity of the MC, but of course it made sense for a character of that age (NICE character writing, by the way - not many grown men can do so well writing as a teenage girl). I also felt like the stats didn't always make sense with the skills/choices they opened up.

Having said that, the game is simply brilliant and in another year would have won the IF Comp outright.



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