Feather is one of those love them or hate them kind of games. In fact, it’s less of a game and more of a relaxing experience.
In Feather you control a bird exploring an island. There’s no goal, no danger, no obstacles, just you. The mechanics are simple and feel natural to use. You can bank and roll, reverse your direction and on some surfaces, you can perch, though your model will almost definitely be floating awkwardly above. The flying feels great, exhilarating even. The movements feel so natural that you can get lost in them for minutes at a time. There’s an inevitable problem though, what do you do after that?
When I first played I flew around excitedly for around 20 minutes. But then I started to look for something more. As far as gameplay goes there isn’t really any. There are rings scattered around the world, changing the background music as you fly through them. There are braziers which light as you fly past, and fruit to eat. But the interactivity seems to end there. I got this constant sense that there was something I was supposed to be doing, something more to find. There are some interesting and mysterious set pieces but for the life of me, I couldn’t make them do anything. Maybe this is just a trained response in us gamers to think that we should have the right to manipulate everything in our world but there really did seem to be something missing. Why light the braziers if they don’t do anything? What was that thing in the cave? Why is the scenery so alien here? I had to know and there didn’t seem to be any answers. All of this was compounded by a bug which has, thankfully, been patched out now. But as I explored the game’s cave system and started lighting the braziers, the world filled up with coloured fog. Now to me, this proved that there was a story which I set out to find, inevitably frustrating myself into turning the game off and deciding that it wasn’t for me.
Thing is, the next day I woke up itching to play it again. By this point, I knew that the world was pretty small and that there wasn’t any goal or for want of a better phrase “anything to do” but I wanted more anyway. I booted it back up and started flying. This time it felt different. I knew I didn’t have to do anything so I just flew. I dodged in and out of trees, dived in and out of the water, sped through the caves as fast as I could, and eventually just lost myself in the experience. I found other birds and we flew and chirped together, performing complex manoeuvres, coming to rest for some time before moving on. The game didn’t want anything from me so I played until I felt ready to turn it off and did so without it outstaying it’s welcome.
The next day I returned once again. What had, on the first day felt like a stiflingly small island now felt like a comfortably familiar territory. My place to roam and play, which in a way is something special.
Now if I could choose, I’d still choose to have more interactivity in the game, even something as small as releasing particle effects as you fly through certain plants or the like. I’d still choose to have a bigger map and more islands to explore. I’d even struggle to decide whether I’d recommend the game or not but despite that, it has become something special to me. A sort of cathartic refuge in a busy world. So my advice? If any of that sounds interesting to you then go for it! If not then it’s probably not for you. Either way, I’m off to play Feather.