Unshackled from the restraints of gravity, The King’s Bird follows the story of a young girl who takes to the skies, gliding effortlessly through vibrant 2D worlds while uncovering the history of her world.
Fuelled by relatively simplistic gameplay, The King’s Bird involves moving fluidly between platforms and utilising the momentum you gain to launch yourself into the air, employing your magical scarf to fly between structures.
Each stage is composed of a collection of platforms and, with no clear, correct path forward, you’re left to carve out the route to the next stage however you wish. With beautiful fluidity, the young girl protagonist propels herself off walls, dives down slopes and dances along platforms. It’s mesmerising to watch, and you’ll often pay more attention to the movements of the protagonist than to the limited story unravelling around her.
The girl’s exploration of the vast world begins after she follows a mysterious cloaked figure through an ancient temple adorned with murals and carvings. The two argue, but only melodic tunes leave their mouths. This simple touch maintains the serene nature of the game, all whilst hinting at the context of any conversation you have.
In order to manoeuvre through the world, you’ll need to jump from each platform, gaining speed before pulling up in an arc to gracefully fly to the next platform. Some levels are set high in the clouds where you can freefall effortlessly through the air, taking in the world and music surrounding you as you do so.
The King’s Bird takes a rather minimalist approach in its art style, leaving the foreground drenched in darkness and focusing all colour and attention to the brightly-painted backgrounds. Each individual level is dominated by one key colour which ombrés into white, creating the illusion of a rich and vast world fading into the distance. It really is striking to behold when you first fire the game up.
Enriching the atmosphere of this precision platformer is the game’s soothing soundtrack which consists of sweet melodies and lilting tones. Highs and lows in the young girl’s journey are emphasised through the music, and the infrequent dialogue is always portrayed though sounds rather than words. In a nice touch, each character is issued their own musical notes which resonate with their personality.
However, with hundreds of stages made up from interlocking platforms only separated by different colouration in each background, there is little variation to each level. Some stages require the collection of winged creatures, but most simply run until they transition into the next colour indicating the completion of the level prior.
Puzzles are a significant part of The King’s Bird and it’s a shame to note that most of them require the same approach. Zipping between pillars and gaining speed as you bounce off each wall is often the only way to cross even the smallest of gaps. This need for momentum means that it’s hard to perfect jumps on your first time through a level as you’ll more often than not approach a hurdle cautiously, only to have to then backtrack to gain enough speed to pass the road block with perfect precision.
Though The King’s Bird sets itself up to be a relaxing puzzler adorned with beautiful visuals and an uplifting soundtrack, monotony and frustration begin to ruin the effect, resulting in a flawed experience that ultimately leaves you more frustrated than relaxed.
There are moments in The King’s Bird where it’s easy to lose yourself in the gameplay and striking visuals. Rocketing around colourful stages and indulging in the serene soundtrack is fun, but frustrating puzzle mechanics and little variance in the gameplay taint the experience.