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About the Story
A minimalist hopepunk avian escape game written for SeedComp! 2023.
1st Place, Best Overall; 1st Place, Best Seed Hybridization; Entrant, All Games - SeedComp! - 2023
|Average Rating: |
Number of Reviews: 4
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This game has you play as a clever bird, a macaw, who is trapped in a cage by a kind of illegal exotic animal dealer and has to escape.
All of this is communicated through minimalistic text that primarily uses adjectives and nouns instead of complete sentences. For instance, examining a bird early on gives the response:
sunken eyes. dry skin. depleted energy.
With the loose perch being a clickable link.
The overall style of gameplay is similar to a single-item-inventory text adventure. You get to pick one thing at a time to hold and can use that item in conjunction with items in the game's world.
This allows for some complex interactions that can be fun to set up.
I encountered a bizarre problem on my end while playing (no other player has found this problem and it wasn't on mobile, so I don't think it's the author's fault) where the game had a missing passage or encountered some other problem where I had to hard restart, about 4 or 5 different times. If anyone else encounters this, switching the platform I was on fixed it immediately (from windows chrome to phone).
Overall, the game is very polished and descriptive. I found the interactivity was interesting, and I could see myself visiting this again.
I didn't feel completely immersed in the game, and found it more of a puzzle box than a bird adventure. But I wonder if I hadn't encountered a bug on my end if I would have been drawn in more. So I'm wavering between a 4 and a 5, but I think I'll go with a 4, because while this game was good, I found the author's other games the Good Ghost and Closure even better, by a significant amount, due to their authentic and engaging dialogue.
Full disclosure: this game did use my seed “Room; Closed Door,” which challenged authors to create a room escape game using only nouns and adjectives—no verbs. free bird. combines it with another room escape seed: “Feathered Fury” by Amanda Walker, which instructed authors to write a game where you play as a bird of paradise trying to escape from the hideout of a group of poachers. This combo didn’t even enter my mind as I perused the seeds, but this game combines the two with impressive synergy. Each passage is a series of adjective-noun pairs, mostly disconnected from each other to communicate our feathered protagonist’s individual isolated impressions. This immediately puts us in the bird’s headspace both in terms of cognition and confusion, as it’s hard to extrapolate much past the limited information we get.
Still, the protagonist manages to display a good bit of personality. When we look in a mirror early in the game, it describes itself as “handsome macaw.” It has both a good deal of empathy and of pragmatism, able to recognize other animals’ plights and wanting to help even in the narration outside of the player’s choices. It can also pick one thing up at a time in its beak to use as a tool, which makes for some interesting puzzles. I will admit there was one point towards the end where I felt a little stuck, but exploring further revealed sufficient cluing that I’d missed.
The author has described free bird. as “hopepunk,” and I think that’s a perfect descriptor for a story that grows to depict a communal effort to seek freedom, make positive change, and enact radical kindness. I think we could all use a bit of that—even those of us who can’t fly.
A masterly example of sparse efficient writing. free bird relies on adjectives and nouns alone to paint the setting and the elements of note within it.
Without elaborate (or even short) sentences and turns of phrase, it highlights only those words that are crucial to the game. However, the game world feels rich and open because of the very clever choice of words and particularly of adjectives. An adjective-noun description of a sickly iguana reviving when its warm light is turned on triggers an entire story and a sequence of rich images in the mind in a lot less words than this paragraph I just wrote about it.
The puzzles are clever, it took me some time-outs to get the solution worked out in full. Because free bird is a click-based game, it would probably be possible to mechanically brute-force the solution a bit easier than it would be in a parser. But then, why would anyone play just to take the fun out of it…
Very clever use of language, nifty puzzles with limited resources.
A great protagonist accompanied by an interesting cast of supporting characters too. Again, despite (or thanks to, depending how you interpret it) the self-imposed language limits, their personalities are clear, with a few poignant details shining through to mark their most important traits.
I liked this very much.
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