by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Free as a Bird
Since the dawn of time, humans have looked up at the sky and wondered what it would be like to fly like a bird, free to soar from one place to the next. Aeroplanes can get us up into the air and quickly to a destination, but we usually have to do so with a heap of other people. Feather however, lets you be a bird and glide effortlessly across an island in a relaxing, exploration game from Melbourne-based indie developers Samurai Punk.
Gameplay in Feather is similar to Pilotwings Resort, except that you are a bird instead of a Nintendo character with a paraglider. Gamers guide their bird all over the islands with the left thumbstick controlling the direction and altitude, whilst the right thumbstick let players look around. Players can also perform barrel-rolls with their bird, although I did not find much need to do so, as I glided over trees and through caves. Swooping down from a height builds up speed, but players can flap their wings in order to build up momentum. There really isn't a lot to learn, and if you've played any game with a flying aspect, the controls will feel familiar.
The game is all about exploring the island and finding all the hidden locales. In a vibrant polygonal setting similar to that of Grow Home, our flying avatar elegantly glides across the wonderfully varied landscapes. Cactus covered deserts that sprout flowers as you fly over them, a cape with a lighthouse perched at the top and rivers loaded with lily pads are just some of the scenes that players will behold. Scattered across the islands are portal-like rings reminiscent of Quidditch goals. Flying through these rings results in them changing colour, and often the melodic music that plays as you soar across the landscapes. And then there are the triangular portals. Once a player flies through one of these, they come out the other side as a different species of bird. Whether you want to be a seagull, a magpie, or a cockatoo, flying around and finding new bird types is one of the collectible aspects of Feather.
Along with the pleasant landscapes, the sky changes too. Day and night cycles further enhance the relaxing nature of the aerial exploration. Players can watch as the sky turns pink as dusk falls and then turns to a dark blue hue as the moon shines upon the surroundings. Weather effects too come into play, as it can get windy, and tougher to fly into.
I have briefly mentioned the backing music, but I can't stress the importance of how well the soundtrack plays a part in keeping the relaxing tone of Feather. The wonderful soundtrack changes as you fly through the Quidditch rings portals or access various locations, but each time the change occurs it is a chance to unwind to a new mellow tune. On more than one occasion, I found myself just gliding across the beach listening to the mixture of waves lapping at the shore, wind wooshing past and the wonderful piano and brass concerto.
Feather is definitely a relaxing experience, one that allows gamers to chill out and explore at their own leisure. There are no enemies, no combat, and no objectives. Some guidance or a location finding challenge similar to that in PilotWings Resort would definitely give Feather added replayability. Even a timed challenge as you fly through all the hoops or a challenge to collect each of the fruits would provide for an added incentive to jump (or should that be 'fly') into the game. As Feather is a cross-platform (PS4, XB1) online game, there is the chance that you will stumble upon other birds circling the island as well. In time this could result in some added collaborative exploration - particularly if the developers add more locations in which to survey from a bird's eye view.
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Relaxing atmosphere, wonderful soundtrack, finding hidden locations
No guidance or story No challenges