‘A Bird Story’ is a video game short made by Kan R. Gao, creator of the highly-acclaimed indie game ‘To the Moon’. It tells the story of an unnamed boy with an overactive imagination caring for a wounded bird and flying the world in search for its home.
I was rather skeptical of this game at first, particularly because of its extremely simple premise. If this game was a meal, I feared that there wasn’t enough of it for it to be satisfying. The more I played, the more I realised that it was less of a game and more of a visual novel, except with absolutely zero dialogue, creative animations (as creative as it can get with RPG maker) and beautiful soundtrack.
And it worked.
I felt that Gao broke the mould of what video games should be about with this game. His previous work, ‘To the Moon’, had defining characteristics of a traditional video game. ‘A Bird Story’ is a different story. Despite there being no dialogue, no words ever uttered, in the game, emotions were conveyed with pure sincerity and genuineness. Nuances from the boy and even the titular bird makes the game more poignant than meets the eye. There are multiple clues hinting at the boy’s family life and personality. Nothing is ever pointed outright; it’s up to the players to figure out what’s what and make their own judgement based on said clues.
The boy’s world shifts when he bonds with his newfound pet and is shown in such subtle yet powerful ways. Colours become more vibrant, contrasting the initial monochromatic greys, greens and browns. Gao utilises music and audible cues to aid the storytelling. Often it’s used to set the tone and, depending on the scene, bolster the emotion and tug at the player’s heartstrings. There are genuinely funny and tender moments throughout the game even though this adventure takes place between these two characters alone. Every scene works seamlessly into the next without ever boring the player. And the boy’s creativity certainly helped. Nothing is mundane in his eyes; he refused to see it that way.
As previously mentioned, much of the game is simply following the tale of the boy and his pet bird. Navigating him around certain areas is as much gameplay as you’re going to get. It’s a short game, about two hours long, but it never once falls short in terms of entertainment. Its linear and cohesive structure, along with its reliant on timing, helped craft a compelling story.
By having the game hinge on these kinds of originality, the game succeeded in creating an emotional and evocative narrative.
‘A Bird Story’ may be limiting to some, but it certainly opens up doors that leads to new storytelling modes in video games. Its silence speaks louder than words can ever say. It makes for a calming playthrough, one that doesn’t require a lot of thinking and can easily be breezed through in one sitting. With its emotional narrative, captivating soundtrack and tight, linear focus, it creates a touching story about friendship and letting go.
If you’ve made it this far into my post, thank you for reading! Have you played ‘A Bird Story’ before? If so, what did you think? If not, would you be interested? Let me know in the comments and I’ll see you in my next post.
Until next time,