By Jaime Skelton (MissyS)
Common folk wisdom repeats the idea that the journey is more important than the destination. That philosophy guides the design of many in a new era of casual games, some of which can be classified as “walking simulators”. These games are meant more as experiences, a combination of graphics and audio meant to evoke feelings in their players. Such is the case with Feather, a simple game by Samurai Punk in which players take the role of a bird and fly about the game world.
The world is tranquil and beautiful.
Feather is not my first foray into games of this nature. I’ve played quite a few “walking simulators” and have even spent time in multiplayer environments provided by The Endless Forest and Meadow. It was my fondness of both of these, in fact, that made me want to investigate Feather. The idea of peacefully flying about a world, exploring its secrets and atmosphere, seemed like a pleasant way to lose track of time.
To be clear, it is a pleasant way to spend some time. Feather wastes no time in putting you in control of a bird in its little world. Controls are mostly intuitive, but a simple in-game tutorial teaches you that you can move with your mouse or WASD, control your camera, speed up, slow down, roll, tweet, and flip. For the most part, I found the controls responsive, though I must note that turning is more about slowly banking in an arc, rather than making a tight change of direction. Disappointingly, you also cannot pause and land wherever you like.
Flying is straight forward, and flips let you add a little style.
The island world is handcrafted, and while it feels expansive enough for a bird of this size, it feels rather small for the human playing. It took me about twenty minutes to see most of the island, including its secret caves, and while I was able to find one or two more points of interest in a revisit, everything was so compact it already felt familiar.
So what is there to do on this world? To start with, there are several ‘rings’ scattered about the island you can fly through. Doing so will change the music played in the world, from gentle tunes to more energetic beats, and that music will last with you until you change it again. There are trees and clouds that you can crash your way through, flowers that ring like little bells when you touch them, water that you can dive into, and caves that you can explore and use as shortcuts beneath the isle. Feather is also a multiplayer game, so you have the chance of encountering another player also flying around, and can share your explorations with them – though there is no method of communicating with them beside tweeting at them.
I spotted another player – but they didn’t take notice of me.
That’s it. On one hand, that might seem like it is enough for what Feather is intended to be. But consider this in comparison to two other titles. Fugl is a similar exploration game in which you play as a bird and explore a procedurally generated world, but its world size is much larger, there are hundreds of animals to discover and appearances to collect, and even a level and avatar editor. Like Feather, Fugl costs $9.99 USD on Steam. On another hand, Meadow is a multiplayer experience with multiple animals and appearances to unlock and collect, multiple collections to complete, a unique non-verbal communication system, and a large world with many secrets of its own. It costs $4.99 USD on Steam.
Getting this vista is a spoiler, but it does reveal how small the game world is.
Feather is a beautiful, peaceful experience in its own right. But for the amount it offers, at the price it offers, the game feels far overvalued at its current price tag. It feels more like a demo of a game that could be much larger, with more features and more land to explore; yet it’s a full release game. The content it has currently is simply too small to offer more than a coffee break time-out to experience calm. Beautiful, but short and shallow, I leave Feather with a final rating of 3.5/5.
Note: A game key was provided for review purposes.