Imagine for a second, having the ability to escape into the air, to soar through the sky with no clear destination in mind and to just enjoy the freedom to explore. Sounds great, doesn’t it? And this is essentially what Feather allows you to do as you take control of a bird in flight. From indie studio Samurai Punk, this atmospheric flight sim isn’t going to be to everyone’s taste but if you enjoyed games such as Flower or Journey, you should certainly find something here to appreciate.
One of the first things you’ll notice is how Feather does away with the need to mindlessly press X through a whole bunch of loading screens. Just launch the game, press ‘Start’ and you’re off and flying over rolling hills – off to a flying start, if you will – accompanied by a soothing, atmospheric soundtrack.
When you play for the first time, you’ll be given a very brief – but entirely adequate – tutorial on and then the game lets you loose in the world which you are free to explore at your leisure. And as you fly around trying to master the simple controls of your bird, you might be forgiven for thinking that there’s not a lot to the game but that’s certainly not what I’d consider a negative here. There are no enemies or combat and you can’t die – at worst if you do accidentally misjudge a dive or turn, time will rewind for a few seconds to let you correct your path. There are no clear goals and it’s up to you entirely how you spend your time.
The controls are intuitive and easy to pick up, and thankfully you can invert the controls via the options if they feel odd. The analogue sticks control your direction and camera and you can give yourself a speed boost or slow yourself right down with the left and right triggers. The more you become used to the feel of flying, the more you begin to appreciate the little nuances. Sure you have a speed boost button, but diving will also increase your speed dramatically and make for some exhilarating fly-bys, as well as some occasional – and embarrassing – crashes.
The views are fairly spectacular too, even with the low-poly graphics. And this is enhanced further with a day and night cycle, allowing you to enjoy countless sunsets and sunrises or take a leisurely moonlit flight across the islands. The weather also changes, giving the landscape a different look and feel. The murkiness of a cloud-filled rainy day or the early morning mist followed by bright sunshine makes the world feel that much more vibrant and alive.
Feather’s music is a great accompaniment to the entire aesthetic of the game, and as you fly around the island, you’ll notice circular gateways dotted around. Naturally, you’ll want to fly through them and doing so will change up the music track and, as this plays such a big part in the mood of the game, it’s well worth checking out all of them to find one that really suits your aerial pursuits. There are also smaller, triangular versions of these which will transform your bird’s colour and change the sound of your chirp.
Speaking of which, there’s also a passive multiplayer which you’ll be familiar with if you played Journey. You may encounter other players flying around the island and you’ll be able to spot them from the ribbons of air that trail behind each bird, though your only form of communication is through chirping which can be heard from quite a distance away. There’s something really heartwarming when you suddenly hear the chirping of another player and you chirp back excitedly while flying around together. And if you’re desperate to know who you’ve been sharing your airspace with, the pause menu will list the names of players in your game – though it may shatter your immersion if you suddenly discover that person you’ve been racing through the skies with for the last 20 minutes is actually ‘Xxlolun00b69Xx’.
Many of the objects and environments of Feather’s world are interactive in some way and it is well worth exploring every corner of the island – I actually didn’t discover that you can land and perch on certain objects until I had been playing for quite a while! Performing low fly-bys can reveal many interesting features and if you look hard enough you’ll find well-concealed entrances to caves and even a portal to another island with even more musical gateways and colour-changing portals to experiment with.
So while there are things you can do in Feather, most of your discoveries will probably be made in a fairly short amount of time. But that’s okay – Feather feels like it is meant as a relaxing interlude from everyday life and many will enjoy it as such. The real fun comes from the freedom of soaring through the air or performing daring dives at break-neck speeds and swooping through trees or between river banks after all. Despite there being no real replay value to speak of, it’s a game that’s quick to load up and come back to again and again to escape the stresses that the real world has a habit of throwing at us.
Despite all this, it feels like some players might be put off by the lack of direction or goals in Feather. Even Flower gave you a purpose and it seems a shame that this game lacks something more tangible to come back for. Still, it’s a surprisingly enjoyable distraction – just as long as you’re aware of what may be perceived as its shortcomings before you take flight.