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About the StoryFourteen-year-old Bridget's summer camp experience takes a turn for the bizarre when her otherworldly bird dreams start bleeding into reality.
Winner, Best Game; Winner, Best Writing; Winner, Best Story; Winner, Best NPCs; Winner, Best Individual NPC; Winner, Best Individual PC - 2015 XYZZY Awards
Rock, Paper, Shotgun
Itís Twine, but with an unusual format; itís a lesbian YA romance; and itís an exploration of how teenagers learn to define their personalities, expressed through the medium of game stats. Itís charming and polished enough that you donít have to work too hard to get into it, but thereís enough there to support further thought. You donít feel like you have to play it more than once to get a good experience, but thereís plenty to reward you if you do. Birdland demands little and yet offers much, which is a rare accomplishment for any kind of art.
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spooky action at a distance
Birdland has at its heart a story about a young woman figuring out the sort of person she wants to be, and overcoming the difficulties of being shy, or weak, or scared, and maybe falling in love, and maybe solving a mystery. And all of that is encompassed in the voice of the narration, which combines a genuineness and an absurdity which effectively unites all of the disparate choices that the reader can make.
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Number of Reviews: 10
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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