By Ronald Gordon
Have you ever wanted to fly free of your burdens and explore the world?Philosophical question aside, The King’s Bird is a game that can help you realize how good it is to be free.
The King’s Bird, which I played on Xbox One, is an action flying platformer game developed by Serenity Forge and published by Graffiti Games. It takes place in a world that looks vast and open, but is really a prison for the people who live in it (although they don’t know it). It’s up to you to explore this world and decide whether or not you want to free your people or keep the outside world invisible to them.
You play as a curious, nameless, and mischievous young girl who lives in a village surrounded by a giant magical cage. There’s only one man capable of entering and leaving the cage, and he is the same man who has control over the ancient gift of flight. In an act of yearning to be free and to see the world outside of the cage, you follow the man to his temple and steal the gift of flight for yourself. With your newfound ability, you take to the sky and escape the cage into the world you never got to see. And you learn why your people were forced to live inside a cage in the first place.
The King’s Bird has simple controls both on the ground and in the air. On the ground you can dash, wall jump, slide along ceilings and down angled floors, and even combine a dash and a jump to travel further. To fly, all you have to do is hold a button and you’ll soar through the air for a short period. However, you can increase your flight time greatly by using momentum in the right ways. If you use your flight to go in a straight line after a jump, then you’ll only end up gliding for a short distance. But if you gather momentum with a dash jump or a lengthy fall, you’ll be able to carry yourself a lot farther. The momentum aspect of The King’s Bird is what kept urging me to complete each level. I learned that if I got lower with a fall, or if I slid and jumped at the right moment, I could get past the point that had stumped me, and that made me want to reach even further.
The King’s Bird has amazing art; all of its levels are based on ancient civilizations and their cultures. One of the most notable examples is the Sky Kingdom, which seems to be heavily steeped in Roman culture with old broken down aqueducts to traverse and great pillars and buildings in the background. Even minor details in the various levels are given their own characteristics. In the Forest Kingdom, the spike hazards are prickly and twisted brambles that almost seem to be alive and still growing, making the area feel less like a forgotten kingdom and more like a living forest. Beyond that, the music is light-hearted and free, which really sets the mood for the game and its overall story. There are a lot of wind instruments like the flute, along with wind chimes, and there’s even opera-like singing during flight, which matches the tune of the music playing.
I loved the use of the momentum concept in The King’s Bird, because it reminds me of the Portal franchise, except instead of a Portal Gun, you get a long flowing cape and the power of flight. I’ve always been a sucker for unique game art, and even though The King’s Bird is 2D, the style of the art and the streamlined movement make it feel so dynamic and real that you’d think you were watching an interactive movie. I may have died a couple of times while mastering the controls, which were actually simple enough to get used to. But I never really got angry, because it was mostly me being a dummy.
The King’s Bird is a wonderful game that I’d recommend to any gamers who want to spend their time exploring how far they can go with the gift of flight. It has a well-told story for a game with surprisingly no text or talking, and it comes with amazingly uplifting music. The art and level designs are beautiful and make the game enthralling to play, as each level has a different path to the exit and different ways to get past the many obstacles. It’s only a matter of time and patience until you beat the level you’re stuck on, or until you progress into the next world. Luckily for me, I have a lot of both. Now, it’s time for me to fly free once again, because I still haven’t finished the game.