Game: “Of Bird And Cage”
When I first heard about Of Bird And Cage I was intrigued; it positions itself as a game set to an album of talented rock and metal artists from around the world. And being someone who lived his pre-pandemic life in black band tees and mosh pits, I was eager to see if Of Bird And Cage would have me whipping up a circle pit in my tiny office.
At A Glance
|Positives||+ High quality musical score|
|+ Dark, emotional story|
|+ It’s a metal album first|
|Negatives||– Gameplay too rushed|
|– Quicktime events unforgiving|
|– Graphically average|
|Our Playtime||4 hours|
Before I get to the musical side of things, let’s cover the rest of the game. Developed by Capricia Productions and published by All In! Games, Of Bird And Cage is a first person exploration game set in a bleak, drug fuelled world loosely based on Beauty And The Beast. *Slight Spoiler Alert* To my disappointment, and despite the abundance of drugs in the game, there was a severe lack of singing candlesticks.
To say that this game is dark is an understatement. Starting the game, I was introduced to a child and her mother and for a few moments – it was a happy scene, as the loving parent plays with a young Gitta in her room. This doesn’t last though, as her father bursts into the room and an argument between the two parents ensues, quickly escalating into violence. Looking at the scene unfold from Gitta’s point of view was distressing, as her childlike mind couldn’t comprehend what was taking place. Text formed around the walls of the room that showcased the thoughts of this young child, ranging from “Is it my fault” to “Oh they’re only playing”; the controls were locked and I was forced to watch and was completely unable to move to intervene. When I was finally given control, I rushed to help the mother as best as a young child could, but then the scene ends and, after a strange swirling intro, I rejoined Gitta twenty years later – she’s now a drug addict who moves from one abusive relationship to another, all while trying to get her music out into the world. Participating in an Open Mic in her local dive bar, she bumps into a mysterious man who instantly has a hold on her, and while she feels she’s found her saviour, she couldn’t be more wrong. Gitta soon realises that the game is based on the original Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve tale of Beauty and the Beast, rather than the alternative colourful Disney film people will be accustomed to.
Of Bird And Cage certainly stirs up all kinds of emotions throughout it’s short two hour runtime, and the plot genuinely took me on a journey into darkness. I expected something dark, but Capricia Productions have certainly provided a raw look into the brutality of humanity. There are multiple endings to unlock and, considering Gitta’s lifestyle, there are only so many logical outcomes to be found, but trying to find the all-singing Disney ending does provide some longevity and replayability.
On the gameplay side, Of Bird And Cage is presented as a first person exploration narrative where completing tasks such as talking to a person, or finding certain objects, unlocks the next part of the story. The plot is linked to each one of the game’s music tracks which means you only have a certain time limit to explore; it’s an interesting approach, but the implementation comes with some mixed results. Seven minutes to explore the map as a song plays, while doing everything possible to try to unlock the ‘best’ ending is certainly an admirable decision but it really just left me feeling like I rushed through the level, and this isn’t helped by the game’s lack of direction either. Early on in the game I found myself in a hallway where I simply had to make my way to the lift, except I wasn’t given any indication this was the case and I ended up getting heaved down a hallway by my dealer turned boyfriend for taking the last of his stash.
Also fighting against me were the quick time events that peppered each level. When they do pop up it’s a case of mashing or holding the button shown on screen until they’ve been beaten. As they’re built into the level, and therefore the music, they require lightning fast reflexes to correctly pass them. Much like the lack of direction on what to do, there are no warnings when an event is about to start – it just happens and you deal with it. This means they are needlessly challenging and they often feel like a way to choose what object Gitta will be thrown through next – would it be a table, or perhaps a window? That said,there were occasions, such as trying to down three shots at the bar, where the success or failure resulted in a change in how the scene played out that almost justified them being part of the game. Almost.
Getting the design of any game right is a tough ask, and Of Bird And Cage is very ambitious in trying to achieve a videogame that follows music. The bones of a good game are certainly there, but the execution of trying to cram large environments and quick time events into a time-limited scope did feel disjointed. It was all either too rushed or lacking direction on what to do next. And there are occasions where the event was over before it even began; in one combat section where I had to defend against an attacker, the bout was over before I even had a chance to throw a punch. This was likely down to a glitch, as I spent far too long exploring the environment and the scene ending when the song did, however it still felt unfair.
When it comes to how Of Bird And Cage looks graphically, the visuals certainly serve a purpose. That’s not to say they’re bad, but if they were in a band, they would be the bassist in the back; good but missing the energetic frontman persona. Generally, the bassist keeps the tempo, and while Gitta is drugged up, appearances are normal, but as the chemicals start to dissipate things begin to get interesting. Gitta starts to hallucinate, with her projection of peoples thoughts scrawling out on the screen before her world goes up in flames. It’s a clever mechanic that reminded me of how Eternal Darkness screwed with the screen if I took too much damage, but much like the elusive bass solo, it was sparsely implemented.
Much like how people go to see Megadeth for Dave Mustaine, the enjoyment derived from Of Bird And Cage rests solely on the music and it certainly takes front and centre here. The gameplay, visuals, and plot are like the backing band – they serve a purpose and have their own chances to shine, but you want to see the front man perform. And so it’s safe to say if the soundtrack doesn’t click, then the rest of the game won’t either. With artists from bands such as Epica, Asking Alexandria, and Within Temptation, the style of the album is firmly in the gothic, storytelling genre of metal, with splashes of hard and prog-rock thrown in for good measure. I will say that at no point did I want to skip any of the music as the game played out even if it wasn’t exactly the brand of metal that I usually enjoy. Vocals were varied, with male and female artists singing, growling, and occasionally screaming over ripping guitars. A prime example is the track The Time Has Come, which reminded me of something Cradle of Filth might put out. There’s nothing wrong with this in my opinion, but screeching vocals aren’t to everyone’s taste, and with the album being available across streaming services, it serves as a ‘try before you buy’ for anyone who might be on the fence.
This proved helpful to me for this review. As Drew and I share similar tastes in music, I provided him with the link to the soundtrack and told him to listen and see what he thought without playing the game. It’s remarkable how close his notes came to marrying up the events in the game and the foreboding nature of the story without experiencing it for himself. That just goes to show how well the soundtrack is written and is a testament to all of the musicians who worked on the album.
Of Bird And Cage is a great concept for a videogame; real care and attention has been taken to produce a quality metal album that tells a story that provokes an emotional response. With a two hour run time and multiple endings, there is scope for replayability, but as the focus has been squarely put against the soundtrack, other areas suffer. Visually Of Bird And Cage does the job, but the gameplay elements felt rushed, and the lack of direction severely hampered my enjoyment. With all of the faults with gameplay and average visuals, it’s hard to recommend the complete backstage package. The soundtrack certainly does all of the heavy lifting and it feels like the score is the Slash to the gameplays Guns N’ Roses; the whole package is fine, but it’s clear there’s one star who can always shine alone.
In the interest of full disclosure, the publisher provided VGamingNews with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.
Of Bird And Cage is a unique title we’ve had our eyes on for a little while now and it finally launches on Steam today. Created by Capricia Productions and published by All in! Games, the game is actually a 2 hour heavy rock/metal album presented as a story driven video game. Artists from some of the world’s heaviest rock bands such as Guns N Roses, Within Temptation, Asking Alexandria & Kamelot have come together to provide music for the score.Read On