PEGBRJE: Shutter Stroll and The King’s Bird
Page 9 is starting out with the VISUALS
Shutter Stroll is a walking simulation made by Jannik Boysen, a solo dev based out of Germany with an extensive development history. In this particular title, players are given a camera and a compass and told to ‘take a stroll’ on an island. That’s… well, that’s it. There’s nothing much else to it, yet at the same time there’s so much to do and see.
Players are given two options upon entering Shutter Stroll; they can either ‘Start Exploring’ or ‘Daily Island’. The first option gifts players with a randomized island that they have arrived upon via rowboat, and are able to immediately explore it. Since each island is random, there are infinite possibilities of shapes, colours and scenery to find on each. The picture I took above was from my second island, which had a gorgeously large sunset backdrop to a slight cliff. The ‘Daily Island’ option is exactly what it sounds like, as each day a specific island is generated for all players to visit. There is no interaction with others, as it is all local only, but it’s nice to think that there are others possibly seeing the same island that I am.
There is a third option, however, one buried within the credits. A ‘hidden’ island, so to speak, under an option named ‘Explore Named Island’. Here, players are treated to islands that have been given names, featuring much more land to cover and greater variance in height than what I found in the random islands. Who gave these names to these islands I’m uncertain of, most likely however they are from those in the credits section that the option is found under.
I can’t state much more on Shutter Stroll than that, as there is little else to ruminate on; it is a relaxation simulation, one that allows players to visit colourful and calming island getaways and take pictures of breathtaking visuals. It gives an escape for anyone that needs it, and with how much we’ve been stuck inside I’d suspect that many more need this than they may admit nowadays. If you’re looking for an escape to lands unseen, Shutter Stroll will get you there.
The King’s Bird is an aesthetic platformer made by Serenity Forge, an indie studio out of Colorado. Players follow the life of a girl without a name, one who lives within a bubbled society that cannot leave. One who begins the game with a simple statement to set the tone and theme for the entire game.
I once dreamt that I could fly
a fledgling flight, soaring aimlessly, fearlessly.
I had the whole world to explore
but in the end the cage would always find me.
The King’s Bird is a momentum platformer, focusing on the protagonist’s ability newfound ability to glide through the skies. After being treated to an intro without words, spoken only through instrumental music, she acquires a white ‘thread’ of sorts that wisps from her back granting flight. Using this, she escapes the city she grew up in to explore the world outside and figure out why the tyrant would keep her and her people within a cage. She will find many dangers in the outside world, but nothing scares her more than lacking the truth.
Players will spend much of The King’s Bird within the Hub area, which connects all of the levels together, allowing players to pick and choose which levels they wish to play in which order. To do so, the player’s must utilize her innate mobility combined with her flight to glide throughout the world, avoiding pitfalls and dangerous areas alike in order to reach the end of each level. Movement is everything, and keeping as much momentum as possible can be crucial in order to make certain jumps and bounce across great stretches of nothingness. This requires tight and consistent controls, which admittedly take a bit to get used to; I used a controller throughout my playthrough, and there were many times in which the free-gliding would go in directions I wasn’t expecting. Movement can feel almost too loose at times when players need it to be as tight as possible, which can lead to some frustration. I say this now, because it is the only true complaint I have about this game and segues perfectly into the most exhilarating aspect of the game; the joy that is the free-flowing movement.
I’ve experienced many platformers within this bundle and beforehand, many with fantastic controls and intricate movement, but none have yet to come close to the absolute excitement I had while gliding within The King’s Bird. The combination of acceleration and flight over passages, controlling through narrow areas and keeping our protagonist moving from space to space is thrilling thanks to the control one has over her. Those frustrating moments mentioned earlier do occur yes, but they are immediately dwarfed by the moments that follow as she bounces off multiple platforms to slide into a massive flight. When a level comes together for the player and ‘clicks’, it can be over in almost an instant as players will seamlessly flow from one platform to the next with fluidity and speed. For an example, the above mission is the first which took me a brutally long time to get the hang of it. The second mission? 60 seconds. I barely remember anything else but the giddy laughter as I reached the end.
I’ve seen a few comments after I finished playing about how this title handles ‘flight’ better than flight simulations or other games that focus on flight as a mechanic, but I’d have to disagree. I don’t really see The King’s Bird as a game of flight in the same sense that planes or birds traditionally fly, but more in an example of bending gravity to one’s will through gliding and diving, more akin to a peregrine falcon dive or a sugar glider jumping across trees. Player’s cannot stay in the air for very long, indicated by the wisp’s length, and therefore must use her powers at opportune times to thwart death and create an advantage from it. It’s this constant swooping that the player does to narrowly avoid walls and dangers only to carry that momentum into the next leap that creates the exuberance and joy, of freefalling only to deny gravity its due. This can be achieved in flight simulations, yes, but rarely is it the focus of the title which showcases the freedom of lacking the need to land. The King’s Bird, on the other hand, grants players the ability to achieve freedom through motion, turning gravity against itself as the protagonist thrusts herself back into the sky after falling to achieve freedom for a while longer.
This narrative created by the gameplay is what drives players forward, this joy of freedom that comes with the heartbreaking realization of what happens when it is stopped. The player is forced to understand just how trapped the girl feels while on the ground, as they too begin to yearn for the freedom of flight. After just a few levels, I would get actively upset when I was doing simple platforming, trying new ways to jump from different heights in order to stay afloat as long as possible. She wishes to be free and to learn of why she was imprisoned, and the game’s tone actually shifts to show this. While in flight, she sings.
I noticed this small detail after struggling on an area for a few tries that a singing voice would replace an instrument or be layered on top during flight, only to be silenced upon landing. I would jump into the air, and the voice would return shortly afterwards. The music reflects the tone of the world, and includes the emotional weight of the protagonist at the same time. This may have gone unnoticed for much of the game, but it is by far my favourite aspect of the game as of this moment.
I could go on about the gorgeous visuals, or the storytelling based on reliefs built into the walls as players explore each level. There are tricks and techniques to learn and master, and levels that encourage multiple paths to take in order to succeed.
Unfortunately I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to finish The King’s Bird, as currently I am hung up on a location as the difficulty has begun to skyrocket on my poor platforming skills. The levels become more precise, and my abilities don’t get any better unfortunately. Yet regardless of this, I’ve enjoyed every step of the way, even through the frustration. It’s a gorgeous title, and any fans of platformers or momentum-based movement will simply adore this title.
Everyone who buys a copy of Shutter Stroll provides a copy for someone to download free of charge. These community…