What do you normally think of when you hear about metal music in relation to video games? If you’re like every other gamer out there, you’re probably thinking it makes a great soundtrack for slaughtering tons of bad guys, like in Doom or Bullets Per Minute. Metal is chronically used as the background to power-fantasy-driven gameplay; brutal sounds complementing brutal visuals, and nothing else. Enter Of Bird and Cage, a first person adventure game developed by Capricia Productions.
According to developer Capricia Productions, “Of Bird and Cage is a unique metal album presented through a short story-driven game.” We’re going to dive into what Of Bird and Cage is all about, as well as what makes it unique among video games.
Redefining what’s metal
Let’s first get out of the way what Of Bird and Cage isn’t. It’s not an action game. You’re not armed with awesome weapons, staring down hordes of demons and creating tons of explosions. While there is occasional violence, it’s definitely not the fun kind of violence you’d expect from your typical action game. Being a story-driven game, Of Bird and Cage focuses on powerful drama and realistic portrayals of struggle and conflict.
As far as where the metal music fits in, it goes beyond being a mere soundtrack for this game. It’s an integral part of the story. The main character you play as – voiced by Kobra Paige of band Kobra and the Lotus – is attempting to write music in an effort to escape her oppressive circumstances.
The very first scene in the game immerses you as the player into an all-too-real domestic abuse situation. It doesn’t get much better from there, at least not anytime soon. You’re thrust into a world defined by the main character’s drug addiction, abusive relationship, financial struggles, and so on. This is not a happy game.
To this end, Of Bird and Cage explores an aspect of metal seldom touched upon in video games. It explores the why and how of people get into metal music. It’s no secret that people dealing with mental health issues can turn to metal music to escape and work through their problems. The struggles the main character goes through in Of Bird and Cage can break down anyone with a good soul. Even if you’re not into the metal music genre yourself, you’ll hopefully understand why metal is the soundtrack of choice to this game.
Having a powerful story and a great soundtrack to go with it can only carry a video game so far. To succeed as a game, even the most powerful of stories needs to have interactive elements. This game leverages its gameplay elements to enhance its story effectively, even if the execution isn’t perfect.
Every chapter in the game is tied to an individual song in the game’s soundtrack. That song serves as a timer of sorts. As the song plays, you’re expected to complete various objectives. How these are done, once you find them, is by various button prompts, in a similar fashion to other adventure games, such as those by Telltale Games. You’ll press single buttons once, mash them, or hold them down. You can also drag certain objects about by holding down the left mouse button.
The song-as-a-timer mechanic is sort of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it really serves to build up tension in the chapters. On the other, it can serve as a source of frustration when it’s not clear what to do. That said, on your first playthrough, you’ll definitely figure out stuff that you’ll know to do in future playthroughs. There is incentive to play this game more than once; more on that later.
The devil’s in the details
Looming overhead your explorations and interactions is an insanity meter, sort of like the classic horror game Eternal Darkness. This is controlled by the drugs the main character is addicted to, and by finding birds in the environment. Sadly, this element of the game doesn’t come up nearly enough for it to be that significant in Of Bird and Cage. We were hoping it would be more important than it is, but the way the individual chapters play out, keeping your sanity in check doesn’t seem to be all that crucial.
However, your choices in the game are definitely impactful. There are four different endings to the game. Four endings are certainly enough to make choices both meaningful and fun to experiment with. This is important as players can beat the game in two hours. Yes, this game is short, but there’s a good amount of meaningful content packed within those two hours. If you really want to find out all four of the game’s endings, you can easily stretch out the amount of time you get out of this game.
Of Bird and Cage is definitely metal. However, it’s definitely not the kind of metal you’d typically expect from a video game. Don’t expect Doom’s care-free revelry of violence. If your mind is open to new ways metal – and music in general – can be used in a video game, we definitely recommend giving Of Bird and Cage a shot.