Before I begin my review for All In! Games’ recently released Of Bird and Cage, I feel it’s only right to provide a trigger warning for topics such as substance abuse, domestic violence, and mental illness. This game explores many dark themes that may be tough for some readers, and your mental health comes first.
When the topic of a modern de-construction of Beauty and the Beast came to mind, I was immediately drawn to it. Not to mention, the game plays out as a unique, interactive metal concept album, and I happen to be a fan of that genre of music. It seemed like a win-win all the way around, and playing it through was truly an experience.
Of Bird and Cage is a very narrative-heavy game, focused much less on gameplay than the storytelling itself. Players assume the role as Gitta Barbot, a 25-year old with dreams of becoming a rockstar. However, trauma from her childhood all the way through until now creates a domino effect on her life, making her fall into a life of drug abuse. The spiral of addiction is a huge point, influencing decisions made throughout the entire game.
Within the first act of the game, Gitta is captured by a man named Bres Lupus. She feels a connection to him, but no memory as to why. The story follows her trying to not only battle with her addiction and keep a reasonable sanity level, but also attempt to escape both the physical and mental prison he holds her in.
Not for the faint of heart, the gameplay leaves players feeling anxious, unsettled, and at times, down right in need of a break. Every level, decision, and cutscene is timed, forcing players to make choices right on the spot without much of a chance to consider the consequences. For a game focused on the story of trauma, it’s definitely fitting, but can be a lot at times. Because each decision determines the outcome, it will leave you wanting to retry a level, or even just start another playthrough once you’ve finished the first.
My first playthrough was full of terrible choices led by my emotions, leaving me with a dark, twisted ending that made me want to curl into a ball for comfort. The second time, I was able to reanalyze some decisions, and take more possibilities into consideration.
As a character who’s struggling with such heavy drug addiction, the sanity level is a huge factor into gameplay. The longer Gitta goes without taking a dose of her drug of choice, the harder it is to focus as hallucinations begin to take control.
Being advertised as a metal concept album, I went into this particularly interested in the soundtrack. Now I can say for absolute certain, the soundtrack is phenomenal. With artists such as Danny Worsnop (Asking Alexandria), Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (ex-Guns N’ Roses), Rocky Gray (ex-Evanescence) and several others, I was thoroughly impressed by how influential the soundtrack was throughout the game. Intense moments were fueled by loud, heavy-hitting songs, while the occasional calmer moments were almost soothed with a softer melody.
As an added bonus, for anyone wanting to stream it, all the music in the game is owned by the studio and can be streamed without any issues.
The game is far from perfect, however. Bugs ravaged the game, leaving loading screens as a black screen where I’d have to close and reopen the game, two crashes throughout my multiple playthroughs, getting stuck while exploring, or a slew of misspellings in the subtitles. While none of these completely ruin the game, I can see how they can almost disrupt a flow as your emotions are intertwined with the moment.
The graphics, while fine, are nothing to write home about. At moments, the characters’ mouths wouldn’t align with what they would be saying, or there would be obvious clipping while exploring.
My last critique is one that made me feel unsatisfied at times – while I understand the point of making quick decisions and obtaining goals quickly, I do wish there might have been moments, or even a second mode, where I could’ve just explored the level without the panic rising. There were so many goals to complete, and in almost every level, I left feeling unaccomplished because I felt I didn’t have the time. I suppose this could be intentional, but I would’ve liked to explore just a tad bit more.
While some improvements could be made overall, Of Bird and Cage is an absolute roller coaster of both emotions and gameplay; it’s a journey that sweeps you off your feet just to knock you right back down. I can’t imagine everyone enjoying this game, as it might be too much for some players, but for those that can handle the twisted themes and gut wrenching moments, I’d say it’s absolutely worth the price of $14.99 on Steam.
RATING: 8 out of 10 birds to chase…