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    A Bird Story

    Children often take matters into their own hands, perhaps more than they should. It’s part of growing up, hopefully not too soon. Regardless of a caring teacher’s advice, or kindly vet’s instruction, they know themselves what is best on a rainy day, or for an injured creature. This is most poignant when you see a child who is used to selfdetermination. If your interactions with family are conducted through notes on the fridge and umbrellas by the door, why not look after yourself, little guy? We get it.

    A Bird Story is about friendship, loneliness and imagination. It is not a sequel to Kan Gao’s To the Moon, more a standalone vignette which (perhaps) serves to frame the next full chapter. Gameplay consists almost exclusively of (sometimes) walking, jumping in puddles and tearing slices of bread into little pieces. There is no dialogue or text. As such, it is an extremely relaxing experience. It almost feels as if Gao created this as a storytelling challenge, to explore the less explicit aspects of narrative.

    The quiet nature of the little boy and his adventures lends itself to gratuitous use of music. Every moment in the game is carefully illustrated, aurally. As well as generously long, lighthearted Flute and oboe lines, over looping sections of the harmony and game, you’ll hear piano sounds reminiscent of Johnny and River’s evocative tale. Hilariously, this is then contrasted with an unlikely melody in the lower brass which plays out of time and out of tune, when they boy is tired.

    Unlike in To the Moon, levels aren’t designed to form a complete and credible world. Instead, they depict how the character exists. Is walking home from school too boring to engage with? Well, the path will condense an entire forest into a couple of steps. Are you studying inside but crave the playground? Just superimpose the two, it’s all good. As a storytelling device, using level design to direct the player’s attention in this way is very clever.

    In other ways, the structure of the world is directed by the little boy himself. What’s that over there? The trees will literally part to let him go and look. Would you defy everything from adult advice to the laws of physics to help your friend? Why not? A Bird Story challenges players to recall that childish conviction that all of your ideas are great ones. Remember when you just knew something would work and then it didn’t? What if it had worked?

    Don’t expect to play A Bird Story. Indeed, if you try to walk the boy into a darkened room, he won’t budge until you have him turn on the light first. He knows best. Or, if he decides he wants to jump on the bed, you’ll just have to wait. You’re allowed to control him sometimes, other times not. Don’t look for puzzles, he solves his own problems. It’s both heartwarming and heartbreaking, in that special way Kan Gao experiments with.

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