Wednesday, 29 August 2018 09:00

The King's Bird Review

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Serenity Forge’s The King’s Bird takes you on a soaring journey that has you plunging fearlessly into many an abyss, only to come rising out of the mist and on to the next, seemingly unattainable, platform. The King’s Bird utilizes a physics-based momentum mechanic that’s designed to inspire a sense of utter freedom — and, at times, utter entrapment. This indie platformer is a beautiful shell that boasts a singularly interesting concept, but misses the mark in the minutiae needed to make it a profoundly memorable experience.

Going in Blind

The King’s Bird chucks you directly from the nest, forcing you to either fly or fall. Play as a young woman in an abstract city imprisoned by walls of light. Explore the city and its minor platforming challenges as your tutorial — a silent city, for The King’s Bird is narrative that steers wholly clear of text and dialogue. Once you reach a wall of light, the plot will activate, and you’ll be severely (albeit voicelessly) scolded by a man for having come so far. He moves through the wall of light with a circular barrier, and disappears into the city.

Follow the man to eventually, and accidentally, obtain a similar circular barrier, which allows you to flee the city and escape into the five worlds The King’s Bird has for you to explore. Lore is explained through pictograph engravings on walls, but these scenes are often obscure and difficult to understand. It’s unlikely that you’ll be carried onward through The King’s Bird by the story’s momentum, as while the skeleton structure is enough to intrigue, there’s never enough to satisfactorily swallow or digest.

Avoid Sharp Objects

The hook of The King’s Bird is its platforming, plain and simple. At first glance, it may appear to be a standard platformer, but to conquer its many levels you must learn to use your own momentum to your advantage. Your character has the ability to leap and glide deliciously long distances, but you have to be exceedingly clever and careful with how you utilize that glide. Knowing when to jump and when to glide is the key to unlocking The King’s Bird’s platforming puzzles. You might be surprised at just how many times you end up smacking into something pointy and instantly dying.

Each of The King’s Bird’s five worlds has a hub, and each hub has a scattering of miniature hubs. You have to platform your way to these mini-hubs, and once there, you have a handful of actual levels to devour. Each level is timed, and each level has a number of luminescent bird collectibles to snatch up. These levels have online leaderboards that add a crushingly undeniable incentive for competitive players. For non-competitive players? You can actually skip levels if you find them to be too challenging. Once you complete all of the levels in a mini-hub, the next mini-hub opens, and ultimately the next world will open to you as well.

Surprisingly Empty

The five worlds in The King’s Bird are unquestionably beautiful, but the abstract nature of their general design leads them to feel repetitive and predictable after just a few levels. Even the stylization of the levels themselves and the different difficulties they present to the player are standardized to the point of potentially boring. The background music is sweetly complementary, but suffers from an identical problem of sameness. Because there’s no real story pressing you on, the lack of intensely notable detail and variety in the art is, unfortunately, felt strongly.

The King’s Bird nonetheless delivers a delightful challenge for platformers. While it claims to strive to be “accessible,” its momentum-based mechanic poses enough of a new gameplay quandary that dedicated players will be thoroughly entertained simply by working to master its quirks. The leaderboards, furthermore, provide an excellent reason to continue to replay levels and hone one’s skill of successfully soaring to freedom in The King’s Bird’s lovely, and numerous, stages.


The Verdict: Good

Handsomely silhouetted by muted ancient structures, The King’s Bird has you gliding, tumbling, and ricocheting through a voiceless world of wonder. Its momentum-based mechanic is a clever take on the platforming genre, providing as many moments of pure glee as moments of pure aggravation. The King’s Bird lacks the variety and detail necessary to elevate it into a masterwork, but it packs more than enough of a challenging punch to be worthy of a platforming enthusiasts’ attention.

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Taryn Ziegler

Taryn is a digital content strategist with an avid appetite for literature and gaming. She graduated from the University of Washington Bothell with a degree in Culture, Literature, and the Arts, and since then has been engaged in copywriting for businesses from AutoNation to DirtFish Rally School. While she'll happily play most games set in front of her, Taryn heartily prefers a good ol' turn-based strategy RPG, such as Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia and Divinity: Original Sin.


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