If you have read some of my reviews in times gone by, you may well have noticed me refer to certain games as ‘experiences’, as opposed to your traditional release. What I mean by this is that the game itself provides something different to your run of the mill title; this is usually unexpected and gives space to relax and reflect. Feather is the strongest example of this I have played in a long time, potentially ever.
The best way I can liken what Feather brings to the gaming party is comparing it to a little known Nintendo Wii release called Endless Ocean (multi-platform gamers may well know it). This was an underwater exploration game with the main emphasis on the gameplay, simply travelling around in your scuba equipment and interacting with marine life. Feather is pretty similar, albeit taking place in the skies above a beautiful, tranquil island.
The game’s location is uninhabited, the only other life present are some feathered friends (see what I did there?) of yours. Despite the small size of the island, each part plays host to several different terrains and climates. You will be soaring across snow-capped mountain tops one minute, before swooping down to skim across the top of a fast flowing river the next.
In terms of “experience”, another way to help define what I mean is thinking about what you do as a gamer. In many games you’re a problem solver, which is realised in numerous ways depending on which game you play. In Feather, you’ll go in thinking like a gamer, but there really is no need.
Your goal is simply to explore. Even the achievements are secret so as to give no clues, no direction. The game does not want to lead you at all, instead allowing you to discover what it has to offer in your own way.
There are certain “gates” dotted about the island which are triangular and circular in shape. When you pass through the first type of gate you will change the sort of bird you play as, and when you fly through the latter the music will change to a completely different track.
At this point, I have to say the game looks and sounds fantastic. It’s utterly calming and relaxing to spend half an hour or so flying around the beautifully realised island taking in the sights and the sounds. The cel-shaded visuals run incredibly smooth on the whole, only occasionally dipping in frame rate when you perform some aerial maneuvers such as rolls and turns.
Your bird can speed up its flight, roll left or right and perform a 180 degree turn where needed. In addition to all of this, you can squawk as often as you like, by hitting the X button. It’s quite charming receiving a reply from the other birds, making you feel as if you’re having a conversation. It’s at this point it becomes clear that the squawk button is essential, and nearly as addictive as honking in Untitled Goose Game.
If you ever forget how to control your bird, you can initiate the tutorial from the pause menu at any time. This leads me to another factor that differentiates Feather as an ‘experience’. There is no difficulty. This is because there are no enemies, and if you ‘crash’, the game simply rewinds you so you can take corrective action. This helps things flow smoothly and doesn’t detract from the overall relaxed vibe of the game.
If you wish, you can also invite up to seven friends along for the ride online. There’s nothing fundamentally different here: instead it becomes a shared experience instead of a solo one.
The only issue with Feather is, inevitably, it’s longevity. I say this because as an ‘experience’, as opposed to a traditional video game, there’s no sense of progression. The idea is that you dive in, play for a short while and then hopefully come away happier and more relaxed, having taken in what the game has to offer. It really depends on what type of player you are, and what you are looking for from your games, to whether there is replay value here that can pull you back in for more.
Feather on Xbox One is a great example of just how varied video games can be. It’s totally non-typical and provides an experience quite like no other; one that everyone should take a look at, unless you are expecting an epic 15 hour campaign mode of course.