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Review: Bird 2
Vertigo has shown time and time again that he possesses some excellent art talent with a distinct personal style, and Bird 2 is no exception. All graphics for the game are colorful, friendly, and welcoming: all necessary qualities for a casual, family-friendly game. The menus are very simple to work with as well, with only single mouse-clicks needed to do everything. The stamp collection is especially charming to look at, and a suitable payoff for a job well-done.
I'm fairly sure that Vertigo was working on making this as text-free a game as possible, judging by the lack of text for anything other than the "click to start" on the start-up screen and the "way to go!" at the end," and that must be commended. However, the downfall of this is that some missions (particularly one related to cacti and the final robot assembly mission) are not necessarily intuitive in terms of how you pick up a new stamp.
Additionally, there are some icons that are not so indicative of their function, particularly without text. The button that allows you to restart your position from Bird's nest, which shows up on the screen only after the player stops moving Bird for a while, was mystifying to me. Meanwhile, the music controls were easily understood, even allowing the player to switch between a handful of different songs.
User interface controls were definitely a mixed bag in Bird 2, which is a demerit for a game geared towards a younger audience. Fortunately, the fundamentals are easy enough to understand, and none of these accessory buttons are essential to completing the game.
GAMEPLAY Following with the accessibility theme of this game, the controls are simple: move the mouse. Button clicks are not needed for anything other than beginning the game and moving past the instruction screen, or in rare cases hopping out of the nest. Unfortunately, a jerky "follow" control scheme causes some control problems, particularly so for the later missions. The one dexterity-based puzzle (again, the infamous cacti challenge" mentioned previously) is particularly hampered by this, and I imagine that in some households parents would have to come running to assist their crying kids... But as one can very easily guess, there's not much to mastering this game, and an entire session can be completed within a half hour, I imagine. It's a quest to see the completed stamp collection, and it's clear enough to understand that everything you are asked to do brings you closer to that goal. If the character you approached hasn't offered you a little speech bubble (which indicates a new mission), then move to another. The game world is small enough to not lose a player, but still large enough to capture the interest of the young explorer. For a casual game intended for children, this game does well. I'd recommend cleaning up the engine a little bit, and this would receive higher marks.
GRAPHICS As mentioned before, Vertigo's pixel art is admirable, and the characters of Bird 2 are all cute, bubbly animal-types. I'm also quite fond of the purple ghost and cactus characters. Although the world seems a bit flat, and lacking in distracting/immersive little details, things are But once again, Bird 2 earns some demerits for user interface. Apart from a couple icons being easily misunderstood (or just downright confusing), I would have appreciated seeing some "item glow" to indicate what the player would need to pick up to progress to the next item in the queue or the next stamp. Even an occasional flicker or flash of the item would be appreciated, helping those young people still becoming used to computers and "find the object" games. That being said, the charm of the game is undeniable thanks mostly to the graphics, and Bird 2 could win over even the coldest of hearts. :)
SOUND/MUSIC Four separate instrumental music tracks loop during play, and the player has the option of selecting whichever track they want to listen to, at any time. They lend a light-hearted, friendly air to the game, fitting in nicely with the graphics and gameplay content. There are few other sounds within the game (and those that are there seem quiet and ignorable). I would have preferred to hear something a little more immersive. Ambient nature sound effects would have been nice, even if done in the same digitized style as the background music or other sound effects. Children enjoy audio cookies as well as visual ones...don't forget these other senses!
LASTABILITY This is a curious category for this game, as I'm trying to view it from the perspective of its younger audience. Would I play this game over and over again, if perhaps I was 6 or 7 years old? Well, the only time you ever see the stamp collection is if you either collect all the stamps, or the bomb blows you up three times (either outcome is entirely possible). So the chance to see the full collection again is a reason to play more than once. Additionally, the completion time is displayed on the stamp book, so those who want to improve on their time will come back to it time and again. Mastering the movement of the engine, navigating your Bird around the various shrubbery and other obstacles in the game world, is also an accomplishment in itself at times. However, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention some of the graphical "cookies" that come your way. Upon picking up a stamp, the player is shown the stamp front and center on the screen for a moment or two. Those are nice, but I'm particularly fond of seeing the bouncing cacti and the robot's final animation upon collecting the final stamp. :) Although certainly not enough for the hardcore PC gamer, these little cookies (in conjunction with the short playing time) will keep young players coming back if they want a quick, casual game experience with a sense of accomplishment within a half-hour's time. They'll move on once they're tired of seeing the completed stamp collection; that may take some time.
OVERALL In a world where hyper-violent imagery rules the computer screen (based on either real life video capture or computer games), it's a breath of fresh air to cross paths with a game that has a simple objective, is non-violent, and is an accessible, wholesome game for young game fans. I'd like to see Vertigo expand in the child game arena, particularly with such simple controls. His graphical style and sense of game pacing match that audience, and if Bird 2 is any indication, then there's plenty of potential in his efforts. I could even see him becoming commercially successful catering to retail-based and "edutainment" websites geared towards children. I'd recommend that Vertigo study up on some other websites for guidance and inspiration - as well as technical features considered standard in children's games - so he can further explore catering to this audience. Best of success to you, Vertigo!
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