I really liked Birdcaged. It's very well thought out, and every element seems to go toward telling the game's story. Basically, it's a game from the one-room contest where you're a depressed bird lady named Crowdette (best girl 2018) trying to get outside of her “cage”.
One of this game's strong points for me was the overall aesthetics of the game. Crowdette's wacky apartment with its colorful hallways, painted on doors, and simplistic-looking monsters. The whole thing feels very cartoony and surreal. Everything feels like it's part of a strange toybox in a run-down apartment. The visuals use bright, saturated colors quite liberally, which contrasts with the drab, depressing greys of our hero's clothing and apartment. This contrast works to highlight how depressed Crowdette is and how drab everything around her appears to be. The visuals are simple, but not every ohr game needs to look like a late snes-era jrpg, the visuals do a great job of enhancing the entire experience of the game.
The music for fights initially starts off upbeat and simple, which goes along with the visuals and colorful toy-like world. As you get further in the game, the song and fights run for longer and the music becomes a somewhat atmospheric piece with a woman singing in a foreign language, and our cutesy little riff is still there, but much quieter in the background. It almost reminded me of the music of the Nier series, with its dreamlike vocals. Again, this battle music helps make the game feel like a journey, despite it being a bird walking through a hallway. As we go further in the game, we go on a journey, but like the cheery beeps and boops, Crowdette's cage is still there. Always in view.
Overall, what I found outstanding about this game was how it managed to make a journey out of “walking around a hallway.” Other reviewers have criticized the grinding of this game, and while I usually hate grinding with a passion I'd say it was necessary for this game. Without some kind of grind, the game would have felt… mindless. I like to have at least some challenge. As you grinded in Birdcaged, you were trying to overcome the challenges ahead of you, and as you beat enemies and powered yourself up it felt empowering, which reflects the journey of the main character through her emotional baggage and towards the outside world. Near the end you feel empowered, and ready to kick the final boss' slime. Without some kind of grind, this would have never been possible, it would have just felt like a boring enter-holding fest where you watch cut scenes about a sad bird. The fact that every event and boss in the game is on the screen from the get-go just makes progressing even sweeter.
Overall, Birdcaged creates a marvellous experience by combining visuals, music, and rpg elements to tell a story, and uses those elements to enhance the story and experience of the game. This was an outstanding entry, and I really hope to see more games in the future that provide a consumate experience such as this.
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