Black Bird Switch Review by SwitchWatch

Developer: Onion Games

Publisher: Onion Games

Release Date: 18 October 2018

Price as of Article: $19.99 USD, £14.99 GBP

Game code provided by Onion Games for review

Intro

One of the things I love about having a gaming channel/website is every so often you come across a gem of a game that you have never heard of. In this industry, and especially in the Indie scene, it’s easy to miss certain games which don’t really have much of a marketing campaign behind them or a big publisher pushing them.

It’s our job to find those hidden gems when we can and for me to call this a job would be a lie because for me it’s more than that – it’s a passion. I get a lot of excitement finding games that many people might not know about and when they are good I just can’t wait to let the world know like when you have met the love of your life.

I was fortunate on this occasion that a Twitter user by the name of @DariusSchmupper had pointed the developer our way. A Japanese game designer by the name of Yoshiro Kimura who had launched the game in Japan and wanted the West to take notice. So I said I would take a look as I am always a fool for Shmups like a man who falls in love at first sight with a blue-eyed blonde-haired girl. I was always going to give it a chance, hoping it had more than good looks and some substance. So is Black Bird worth your hard earned cash?

Black Bird Screenshot

Story-wise, this hit me a little harder than I thought. A girl wanders into the street and passes away and with this, you would naturally be thinking someone would notice, but they don’t, instead walking past her and thinking nothing of it. Until some older gent starts poking her with a walking stick and then just walks off!

It had me disgusted and seething with rage.

Luckily for me, the girl doesn’t take long to turn into an egg, and when this egg hatches, a blackbird is ready to wreak havoc on those who ignored her in death. I was ready to take out anyone and anything – such was the powerful nature of the way the story was told just through its wonderful little cutscenes.

Gameplay

Gameplay is a simple affair. Here we can move our flying bird left and right shooting bullets just by holding down the relevant button. As you take out enemies, you collect gems which are large when they drop but soon start to shrink. These gems need collecting for automated upgrades.  The combo meter is simply kept up by you killing people in the air and on the ground as fast as possible and continuously keeping the killing spree going to get as high scores as possible. It’s a constant risk versus reward game, in that you want to collect the gems when they are as large as possible to get upgrades quicker which means getting as close to enemies as possible.

Black Bird Screenshot 3

The name of the game to progress is to find towers which are located in the below map and to take them down. If you are a Shmup veteran, then this is not the most difficult, but it’s very enjoyable. Once the towers are taken out, you meet the boss which usually has two phases and in general, again, they are not the most difficult. In fact, I would say the bosses are easier than the levels themselves or that’s at least how I felt.

The real meat of the game is unlocking True Mode after completing the four levels, which should not take you any longer than an hour or so, depending on your skill level. I say this because if you lose your health, then it’s game over and you start from the beginning which can be super frustrating. The charm really is in its simplicity, everything it does, for the most part, it does well, except for a few difficulty spikes in level 3 onwards. The use of bombs is welcome for those situations to save yourself at the last second when you are engulfed and are satisfying to use.

 

Audio

In terms of gameplay, Black Bird doesn’t do anything new but it’s how all of its elements come together to make this game truly special. The music especially, is something to behold, it’s totally wacky and different – a really bizarre score you would think to put in a shmup but it totally works. It feels like I had just visited the cinema to watch an action film but there was a live opera playing at the same time or eating a hot dog with jelly. You think it’s nuts but try it and see. The enemies become part of the music and it’s put together in such a way that it’s nothing more than genius and I absolutely loved it!

Black Bird Screenshot 5

Visuals & Performance

Visually, Black Bird is absolutely sensational with some excellent pixel work here. Just a visual beauty, and to be honest, you just have to play it to take in all of the wonderful little details. Even the little cut scenes, while not having the biggest budget in the world, tell a story throughout.

Value

My one big gripe with Black Bird is its price point. Don’t get me wrong, this is a quality product and I have no problem recommending it, but I think some people may have an issue paying $20 for this based on all the competition on the eshop right now. The great thing about the game is the remixed levels when you complete the game and the harder mode you get to play, which really is a challenge, and also the having the ability to post scores on the leaderboard which is always a win if you are competitive. However, the game to complete can take as little as 40 minutes and if you are not one to go back in for a second run you may feel it’s expensive.