Fight or Flight
Developer: Anamik Majumdar
Publisher: Anamik Majumdar
Released: 17th January, 2018
Copy provided by publisher free of charge
Keatz: The Lonely Bird is a ambition 2D platformer that promises a story driven adventure of liberation, friendship and equality. It’s also the developer’s second attempt at a 2D platformer and it kind of shows. This is not a game I’d spend money on however, I still see some value here. This is a learning opportunity. I’m still going to pick this game apart and tr to point out places where i give some advice. Bear in mind, however I am absolutely not a game developer, just someone who knows what I like to see in a game.
You need to have an engaging and well written story if want it to be the driving force behind your game, unfortunately this isn’t the case here. To give a brief overview: you play as Keatz, a bird who can’t fly and has therefore been deemed unworthy of existence by the government of Heaven, which is trying to eliminate all “flightless birds”. Keatz must now slaughter countless soldier in an effort to somehow reverse this and create peace while simultaneously dabbling in mysterious and mystic powers across two dimensions all in the pursuit of ending a haunting loneliness.
So yeah, there’s a lot going on for such a short game and it deals with some pretty heavy themes, I mean, we’ve got a full on genocide to deal with. You need to take care when working with stuff like this and sadly, it’s not handled very well. Plot Points are dropped, many things are left unresolved and you never get the sense you’re actually accomplishing any sort of change. The story focuses just a little too much on Keatz, so you never really see the effects he has on the world, even though windows into that world are established. It’s hard to feel connected to the world when your unable to comprehend the effect you have in it.
There’s also one big problem separating what happens in the story from what’s happening in the game: aside from a few in the background, not a single bird actually flies. Ironically Keatz the flightless bird is the most vertically capable in the entire game, he can at least jump. When one of your core conceits is directly contradicted by what’s happening in the game, you create a problem the player probably can’t ignore.
The character dialogue show little faith in itself or it’s readers, sometimes going out of its way to directly tell the player how a character is supposed to sound e.g. with a “determined voice”. Tone is something that I should be able to interpret from the dialogue alone, not be directly informed of.
Aside form some grammar and spelling mistakes here, that’s pretty much it for the writing, let’s shift our focus onto the visual and audio presentation.
Alarm bells starting sounding when the only option was for volume, which for some bizarre reason needed the “n” and “m” keys. If there was one game I wish I could change individual volumes it would be this one. While being licensed from 3rd parties, the music is one the best parts in The Lonely Bird. The sound effects start annoying and become unbearable, layering one on top of the other until they drown everything else out. You can’t escape them either, they always sound like they’re coming from right next to you.
I can’t tell whether the game’s deliberately going for a cute but gruesome style or it just doesn’t know what to be. The art style is bright and colourful and cheery yet Keatz dissolves into a shrieking stream of gore on death. I just can’t pin down the tone this game’s going for when it’s this inconsistent.
I do quite like the most of the backgrounds particularly the open landscapes. They are pleasant to look at, although some more care could have been taken when choosing the colours. Bullets sometimes blend into the scenery, making them hard to see and therefore avoid. This is really only a problem in the early game and the obscured shots are pretty harmless, but it’s a pretty obvious mistake. In some parts of the game it’s easier to distinguish what’s on screen, although this comes at the cost of looking dull as these levels are mostly different shade of grey.
The gameplay itself is where the game really starts to fall apart. Glitches, unfocused direction and overly simple and repetitive challenges hold back what could have been
The game can’t seem to decide whether it wants to focus on precision platforming or action and exploration, so it stumbles halfway between them. Combat is a clunky war of attrition thanks to an AI that just runs back and forth, firing an endless stream of projectiles. The only time it reacts to you is when you shoot back, immediately turning to face you. This makes more graceful strategies and attempts to outmaneuver them nigh-impossible. It’s much easier to just stand there and shoot back, most attacks are so weak you can reliably outgun them.
Ammo and health pickups are plentiful enough that you barely pay attention to the shooting. At least there’s multiple weapons that bring an element of strategy to the game, that’s the best part of the combat. Suffice to say, the combat is not a strength here. Oh and by the way, that endless spamming is the driving force behind the audio mess.
Things don’t look much better for the more precision based mechanics, touching traps and enemies is an instant death, so you need the controls to be tight and responsive. Unfortunately, you can’t control how high you jump, it feels floaty and getting stuck in objects is a aggravating possibility. Some levels are quite long so when you’re suddenly obliterated from swinging blade with a janky hitbox, it can be quite frustrating. Not all of the objects have a physical presence either, you won’t know until you try to use it as a platform, which could easily mean death.
Each level gives you a description of your goals, what challenges to expect as well as some flavour text contextualising the level with the resto the world and story. The downside is that you can only see it when the games loading, being able to bring up an objective list would be invaluable.
Having lives makes little sense in a game where you can reload to the last level with no penalty, it just wastes time. It also prevents the music from playing on that particular level, which is a peculiar glitch.
I’m disappointed in the dream world. Pitched as a sort of interconnected dimension, I was hopeful that it would be something you could switch between at will, with its own
In reality the dream world is just a couple of levels here and there with a time limit and a worse aesthetic.
The bosses are straight up boring, they’re just beefed up enemies with bigger guns and incredible amounts of health. They’re not a challenge, they act like any other enemy, all you have to do is find the one spot they can’t run into you and unload on them. They aren’t a challenge, they aren’t anything different, they’re just there.
I don’t hate Keatz: The Lonely Bird, but it certainly isn’t good. It’s clear that the developer has put genuine effort into this, and that’s better than most these days, the amount it tries to tackle at once is clear evidence. It comes down to a lack of experience, the game ultimately feels like a practice attempt, there’s some good ideas floating around in here, but they’re executed poorly. Does this game have any business on a store page? That’s not for me to decide, all I can say is that I wouldn’t buy it, but I do want to keep an eye out for the developer’s next project.