Of Bird and Cage Review – Heavy, in More Ways than One
Developed by Capricia Productions
Published by All in! Games
Available on PC
Hi, my name is Marcos. You may know me from such hits as: “The Dictator Who Built Bootleg Consoles” and “Third-World Inflation is Fun!“. What you may not know is, my professional background is in sound engineering. In fact, I used to own a recording studio in Canada. I produced mostly rock and metal bands. Which makes the thought of reviewing Of Bird and Cage all the more appealing. Pitched as a metal album presented through a two-hour-long story-driven game, this experience feels like the natural evolution of a genre I grew up loving. But is it all Doom? Or will it have a payoff of Epic(a) proportions? Let’s find out.
The Setup: Heavy Music, Heavier Story
Hey, I gotta be honest. They had me at “metal album”. The fact that they developed an experience which is basically a choose-your-own-heavy-metal-adventure is, in my opinion, pretty darn cool. Not only that, but it features people like Bumblefoot (Guns N’ Roses), Ruud Jolie (Within Temptation) and Rob van der Loo (Epica). These are some of the most talented people in the history of the metal genre. And Within Temptation and Epica in particular were incredibly influential in my career. Symphonic metal continues to be my first love, and those two bands, along with Nightwish, are perhaps the holy triumvirate for me.
So, the setup is amazing, and the music is, really, absolutely fantastic. I must admit that, for the past couple of years, I’ve left behind the humbucker sound found in Opeth and Satyricon, in favor of the single-coil peace of Elvis Costello and some motown. But I still keep up to date with all major releases, and enjoy the ocassional shot of Ghost much like one might enjoy an ocassional glass of whiskey. I’m happy to report that Arnold Nesis’ music is right up there for me. Being brought to life by a who’s-who of metal isn’t a guarantee of a project’s quality – just ask Timo Tolkki. But everything in Of Bird and Cage, from the composition, to the production and the vocal deliveries, is top-drawer symphonic metal.
But what about the story? Gitta Barbot, the 25-year-old protagonist, is a drug addict dating her dealer. She’s been abused since childhood. I’d rather not spoil any specifics, particularly because the whole experience is only a couple of hours long. But in terms of happy moments, there aren’t that many. And perhaps, that is this particular bird’s only downfall.
It Weighs Heavy on My Heart
I adore music and its ability to help us experience things. Analyze things. Sometimes, even overcome things. Metal in particular has a way of getting to my deepest core and exorcising whatever is there. But at some point, after I’ve healed, the same tools that allowed me to overcome my nightmares are the only things which remind me of those same nightmares. And that’s what I feel with Of Bird and Cage. It is too heavy for the state in which my mind is currently.
This is, of course, subjective. But all reviews are. And I cannot help but feel as if, had they given the story a bit more time to develop, they would have been able to include more positivity into it. I understand the logic behind an album like this. Heck, I’ve written a couple myself. But as I’ve grown older and healed (in no small way thanks to the very people featured in this game), I’ve learned to appreciate the huge, immesurable impact of positivity. And there just isn’t all that much of it here.
Is it a Game?
Well, yes and no. It’s certainly interactive. Much more so than visual novels, for example. There are quick-time events, some of which are very challenging. And your choices have very real consequences in how the story progresses. I was incredibly impressed at how seamless the integration is between the music, the story and the in-game events.
But this is, after all, a music album first, and a game second. And while the developers have done an admirable job at making the experience an interactive one, you need to set your expectations accordingly. I did, and as such, I was happily surprised at how dynamic the game felt. How much my actions mattered.
I do not know how much mainstream appeal Of Bird and Cage will have. But for those of us who fall in that beautiful Venn diagram intersection between gamers and metalheads, this is perhaps the most faithful representation of the latter way of life, while still having its feet firmly planted in the former.
Should You Play Of Bird and Cage?
Yes! Absolutely. For those of us who are heavy metal fans and gamers, this is a no-brainer. Rarely do we see such a marriage of our passions, let alone with this degree of quality and pedigree. For fans of interactive fiction, I honestly feel they have the most to gain here. If Of Bird and Cage is a great addition to heavy metal games, then it’s an even more impressive addition to narrative fiction. Not only do your actions have heavy impact on the story, but the world as a whole is impacted through your choices and the music.
Fans of traditional “games” perhaps will find it a bit more difficult to gel with it, though. There’s no shooting, the graphics are a bit too Telltale Games for 2021, and the whole thing is over in a couple of hours.
But if you’re even remotely interested in a convergence of metal and gaming, Of Bird and Cage offers one of the best I’ve seen (and heard) in a long time. Just be careful that you have not bitten more than you can emotionally chew. Because much like momma birds do to worms, Of Bird and Cage will chew you up and spit you out if you’re not careful.