The King’s Bird is a fantastic game. There, I’ve said it. If that’s all I could say, that’s all this review would consist of. This is the digital age, though, and search-engine-optimisation, as well as readers expectation’s dictate that I must elaborate. Fine. Have it your way, internet.
The King’s Bird is a new platformer for the Nintendo Switch, but unlike others where you’ll run, jump, and squash enemies by landing on their heads, The King’s Bird is all about flight and traversal. Who hasn’t dreamed of flying? Me. That’s who. I’m deathly afraid of aeroplanes and heights, but I reckon if I could move around like I do in The King’s Bird, I’d probably enjoy it. Until I face-plant into a wall, at least.
Levels consist of challenging labyrinths that need to be navigated using a combination of precise flying, timed jumps and slides. To begin with you’re only able to run and jump around like a mere mortal, but within the game’s opening act you’re given your wings (a magic scarf of sorts) and then the fun begins.
The game employs a momentum-based flying mechanics. This means that if you take a leap off of a ledge with a long drop and then spread your wings at the bottom, you’ll be able to soar upwards as if you’ve been slung by a slingshot. It works fantastically well and once you’ve had a taste, you’ll be gagging for more. I know I was.
It’s not an easy game to master, mind you, and I spent a lot of time dying as I slowly figured out how to chain my different abilities together. You can’t just expect to fly your way through levels, that would be too easy. You need to be flying, landing, sliding, and jumping – often in quick succession. Unfortunately my reflexes failed me many times along the way, but the game’s generous checkpoint system made it easy to have another try. It also helps that the game puts you in an ideal spot for a retry once you’ve smashed your face into a wall of spikes. So if you find yourself at the top of an incline with a ramp that could be used as a launchpad for a jump… that’s what the game wants you to do.
You’ll take your little character on a journey though the game’s four Kingdom’s, with each one taking on a different visual theme. Within each world there are collectables, as well as some story scenes that explain what’s going on. The game is a little lean on the narrative, but that’s more than fine with me. The game isn’t about telling an amazing story (though it’s perfectly serviceable,) it’s about torturing players with increasingly difficult levels that require the nimblest of fingers and the quickest reactions. Or at least that’s how it seemed for me…
Death is common in The King’s Bird, but thankfully that was mostly my own fault. The controls are perfectly fine and I never found myself pouring boiling water over my Joy-Cons out of frustration. The game makes it really easy, and in more ways than one.
Hidden inside the games menus are options to help struggling players progress. These act as modifiers of sorts and they’re really handy if you’re having a hard time. What’s more is that you don’t have to use all of them, and you can activate/deactivate them as you see fit. Personally I like a bit of a challenge, but when it proved too much I’d flip the switch and give myself invincibility, turning it off once I’d passed a tricky section. Of course, you could play the entire game with modifiers on, but where’s the fun in that?
Visually, The King’s Bird is a beauty of a game. Don’t be put off by the simple graphics; it looks great on the Switch’s handheld screen as well as on a decent telly. Admittedly I spent most of my time with the game in handheld mode, and I have a natural bias towards handheld gaming in general, but it still presents itself well on my 4K TV. That’s thanks to The King’s Bird being a simple-looking game but with plenty to look at. I never looked at it and thought “oh, is this it?”. The game’s worlds are bold and clear with a lot to see, but, despite your character only taking up a relatively tiny amount of screen space, it never feels like it’s too busy. In short, it’s a really nice game to look out, and I definitely recommend getting tucked up under the covers with this one in handheld mode.
While the graphics are great, the game’s audio is a real highlight, too. From the ghostly choir-like voice of your character in cut-scenes to the deafening swoosh as you plummet head-first towards the ground, it all comes together nicely. The soundtrack is really chilled, too – a massive help when things get stressful and you need a reminder that it’s just a game.
Challenging, frustrating, and pretty are the three words I’d choose to describe The King’s Bird. After a dozen or so hours of flying, leaping, bounding and dying, I’m still not finished with the game. There’s a lot of content and even more if you want to go for the collectables scattered around the game’s Kingdoms. Not that I think I’ll ever be able to collect them all, given my obvious lack of skill, but it’s nice to know there’s another reason to go back, aside from the game’s take on modern platforming.
The King's Bird Nintendo Switch Review
The King’s Bird is a challenging game from start to finish, but if you take the time to learn its systems, you’ll come away with a great big smile on your face. The game’s momentum-based platforming is more than a gimmick; it’s something I want to see more of. Sequel when?
Strong platforming gameplay with brilliant flying mechanics
Haunting soundtrack (in a good way!)
Plenty to do and see
Can be a little difficult at times, to the point it feels unfair
Reviewed using Nintendo Switch.