Rock albums have been brought to numerous mediums. There’s been operas, movies, even comic books intended to be read alongside their vinyl counterpart. However, a rock album as a videogame is not something that’s ever been attempted before. As you’ll learn in this Of Bird and Cage review, Capricia Productions have laid the groundwork, but it’s not a smooth ride.
The game begins with an almost immediately traumatic scene. Playing in first-person, you learn of Gitta’s challenging upbringing. Her abusive father immediately casts a dark light on the story, setting expectations for what is to come. And this is before you’ve even seen a menu screen.
Fast-forward to Gitta as an adult, and things haven’t got much better. She’s 25, doing a dead-end job in a dead-end town, addicted to a drug (which, bizarrely, makes her see fire and crows when she enters withdrawal) and dreaming of becoming a musician. She does not, however, have any kind of plan how to achieve this. As stated above, Of Bird and Cage is ‘a music album presented as a game’. The material it’s chosen to use is undeniably dark from the very beginning.
Of Bird and Cage is billed as a ‘modern retelling’ of Beauty and the Beast. Think Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet, but with an exclusively rock and metal soundtrack. And a fantastic one at that. The game never shies away from what it claims to be, but the way in which it delivers it material is decided by you.
In a similar vein to Telltale Games’ hugely popular The Walking Dead series – and to a lesser extent, the recently released The Quarry – the decisions you make affect the way the game plays out. Decide not to do what another character tells you? They’ll get angry. But going along with it and keeping them happy may have a negative impact on your own mental health. Drink, take your designer drugs, travel to a mental abyss and be faced with some rather difficult challenges in a very specific time limit. Of Bird and Cage is about the journey, rather than the destination.
Ultimately, there is no way to fail Of Bird and Cage. It’s a decision (or indecision). You may not escape a beating from your father. You may not be able to fight your inner demons. But the story and the music progresses regardless. You can of course replay specific levels to try and perfect all of the challenges, but unless you’re a Trophy/Achievement hunter we’re not sure why you would want to. Of Bird and Cage lives in the moment and, right or wrong, how that moment played is how the accompanying song should resonate with you forever.
Despite being made for a wide audience (as most music is), the idea to combine it with a videogame wherein the story alters based on players actions makes it entirely personal. Your feelings towards a specific song may be very different from the next player’s; not because you like the music more or less, but because that scene went an entirely different way for you.
Sadly, there are some significant issues. During the time of writing this Of Bird and Cage review we found many of the time-based interactions to be near-impossible to succeed in on your first attempt. The combat is frustrating and rarely seems to have much impact on the proceedings. And of course, we have to talk about the graphics.
Though obviously not the most important part of the game, it would be difficult to deny the visual quality will be off putting to many. Despite being built in Unreal Engine 4, the game appears blurry and poorly animated most of the time. The character models are worse than what you might expect of an Xbox 360, and graphical glitches are frequent. It all adds up to a cosmetic that, while intended to be stylised, is simply unattractive in all counts.
Of Bird and Cage is a muddled game, then. It has the right idea for sure, but the execution is poor. It sets the template for things to come; with all seriousness, we genuinely hope Capricia Productions give it another stab. Perhaps even with a bigger budget next time around. As while the groundwork has been laid, Of Bird and Cage doesn’t quite manage to deliver the experience it promises.