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Birdland

by Brendan Patrick Hennessy profile

Teens
2015

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Member Reviews

5 star:
(28)
4 star:
(19)
3 star:
(10)
2 star:
(3)
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(2)
Average Rating:
Number of Reviews: 6
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1-6 of 6


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A long, well-developed 'dramedy' about summer camp and dreams, June 26, 2016
by MathBrush
Related reviews: IF Comp 2015
This game from IFComp 2015 is, in my opinion, one of the best Twine games of all time, and certainly the best outside of the well-developed horror/darkness segment.

In this game, gameplay is split up between a summer camp with a slice-of-life scenario and dreams with an absurdist take on talking birds. As the game progresses, the two halves become more related.

The game takes a stats-based approach, with a twist. You develop statistics at night during your dreams; in the day, it affects what options you have for various activities. At first, I felt like the stats didn't matter, because scene follows scene in the same order regardless of your actions. However, on replay, I found that some of the best material is contained in stats-enabled actions.

This story is long and has several surprising turns. It's split into several days, each of which can be accessed independently in case you can't finish in one sitting. Because stats seem to be reset each night, I don't think you lose anything just skipping ahead.

The game includes some mild summer-camp-normal sexual references near the beginning, and one branch of one scene contains strong profanity.

Recommended for everyone.

Edit: When I played through again, I counted the distinct pages I viewed, and I took 234 choices/pages to complete the game.

Nice!, May 21, 2016
Pretty interesting and fun for a Twine game! The choices based on moods are brilliantly unique.

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A good punch of Weird with a long drag afterwards, January 24, 2016
by Oreolek (Kemerovo, Russia)
Related reviews: ifcomp2015
Bridget is a girl in a summer camp. She sees weird dreams. She sees weird things. It's weird.

Birdland is long and it constantly repeats itself. The dreams have the samey feel and by the third or the fourth they are boring. Between the "ah, so what's happening" and "okay, let's do something about it" moments there is a good chunk of just.. hanging around, I guess.

What's frustrating is lack of character details. I finished the game but I still don't know anything solid about the lead heroine. Most of the camp girls are flat or you don't see them enough because the game doesn't care. There are good characters but they are doomed to be the scenery.

It's a decent game, overall, for its background details and the punchy beginning. The ending's flat, though.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Teens and birds, November 23, 2015
by CMG (NYC)
Birdland is a very long Twine story (probably at least novella-length for each playthrough) about teen girls at summer camp. They participate in standard camp activities like swimming, they gossip, and they fumble with their developing adolescent identities. This could've been horrible. All the ingredients are lined up for a sappy Hallmark special. But it's not horrible. It's great.

It's written in script format with occasional character illustrations (that are very nice; you can look at them all from the main menu, but they only show up once each in the game itself). What this means, of course, is that practically everything is conveyed through dialogue, and what that means is that major emphasis is put on character interaction. There is no flab. The game is laser-focused on these characters' mindsets.

I have the sense, although I could be mistaken, that you'll get the same overarching story no matter what choices you make. Which is no problem. It is a good story, not just about teen girls canoeing at summer camp, but about the dreams that the main character Bridget Leaside experiences -- strange dreams that seem to have ripple effects in the waking world.

Rather, what choices you make influence sub-scenes in the story by changing Bridget's mood, giving her access to certain actions or cutting them off. You're basically presented with different angles of approach to the same goals. What's especially thoughtful is how the game shows you every possible action, even if you can't choose one because you're in the wrong mood at the moment. This way you know what impact your decisions had. I am growing more and more fond of transparent game mechanics like this.

Since nearly all the writing is dialogue, the dialogue has to be good, and it is. Especially in the dream sequences, where humanoid birds speak to Bridget using stilted, mechanical language. Brendan Patrick Hennessy has a history writing stilted prose. You Will Select a Decision is all about the stilted prose. But whereas that was a pure comedy game, and the prose was stilted because it was meant to be a poor translation from Russian, in Birdland there's more going on. It's still funny in Birdland. The technique is just being used with more purpose.

Actually, Birdland feels like the natural next step after You Will Select a Decision and Bell Park, Youth Detective. Those games crashed together, refined themselves during the crash, and became Birdland. Bell Park herself is a central character in Birdland.

This game made me think about Wes Anderson movies. Moonrise Kingdom specifically. Kids who are more mature than the adults around them, but who are still kids learning how to survive. Kids who find themselves in over their heads as bizarre circumstances develop. Birdland is strong interactive fiction, pushing the medium more toward literature, which I completely support.

Funny & Charming, November 19, 2015
by Felicity Banks (Canberra, Australia)
Related reviews: IFComp 2015
I was extremely impressed by the humour (including the way the birds talk, which is interesting since I usually detest unusual speech systems) and really enjoyed watching the world change as the story progressed. I laughed out loud and often.

The romance was gorgeous.

I felt a little frustrated by the passivity of the MC, but of course it made sense for a character of that age (NICE character writing, by the way - not many grown men can do so well writing as a teenage girl). I also felt like the stats didn't always make sense with the skills/choices they opened up.

Having said that, the game is simply brilliant and in another year would have won the IF Comp outright.

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
MAGICAL, October 5, 2015
by streever (America)
I am a human reviewer. The function of a human reviewer is to review humans.

A normal human activity at this juncture would be to provide a review of the human, Birdland, but Birdland is not a human. Birdland is a sublime and transcendental experience created by the human Brendan Patrick Hennessy.

Birdland tells the story of a young human woman at a summer camp, where she is experiencing human emotions of melancholy, isolation, and loneliness, and she dreams that she is in a strange world of birds who ask her puzzling questions about common-place experiences each night.

These dreams affect her daily moods, which in turn close off or open up different actions she can take.

A large cameo/guest-appearance by Bell Park, Youth Detective, is a delightful reference to Hennessy's last game, but absolutely not required reading.

I can't say enough good things about Birdland; the formatting, style, design, and narrative are all excellent.


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