Let’s get this straight right away. Of Bird and Cage is not just a video game. It is a heavy metal album presented through a short story, developed by Polish team Capricia Productions. But is so much more than that too. It’s a musical and visual experience, more akin to theatrical album tie-ins like Pink Floyd’s The Wall, or Green Day’s American Idiot. And boy, what an experience this game is.
Of Bird and Cage tells the tale of Gitta Bardot, a 25-year-old drug addict stuck in a dead-end job and abusive relationships. After being taken captive by the mysterious Bres Lupus, she is forced to make quick choices that have dire consequences, all in the name of earning her freedom from everything that holds her down.
Of Bird and Cage does not play like an ordinary RPG. The game is accompanied by a melodic metal album that drives the story’s narrative, pacing, and themes. In fact, if anything, accompanied is the wrong word. The soundtrack doesn’t work alongside the game – the game works alongside the soundtrack. It’s not background music – you must take notice of it if you want to fully comprehend this game.
“The star of the show is most definitely the brilliant Kobra Paige of Kobra and the Lotus, who voices the main character Gitta.”
The music is certainly the highlight here. The melodic heavy metal soundtrack features an all-star cast. It features such artists as Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal of ex-Guns N’ Roses, Davidavi ‘Vidi’ Dolev of Gunned Down Horses, and the great Snowy Shaw of King Diamond. The music really immerses you into this world, and it takes you on a gripping journey.
While the musicians are all excellent in their own right, the star of the show is most definitely the brilliant Kobra Paige of Kobra and the Lotus, who voices the main character Gitta. Her strong and haunting vocals add a level of pain and angst to the story of Gitta that no amount of spoken dialogue could replace.
There is almost no dialogue in the game, but the music’s vocals give you enough to follow the story. And trust me, this is not for the faint of heart. The game immediately delves into Gitta’s childhood in an abusive home, and then to her modern-day drug addiction. These aren’t here for mere shock value either. Each plays an important role in the game, especially Gitta’s addictions – the more she withdraws, the more she hallucinates, and the harder the game becomes. Reality begins to distort, and Gitta’s psychotic hallucinations add a layer of terror to the game.
The plot does not suffer from the game’s lack of dialogue. Through the music and the on-screen presentation, you must make a series of important decisions as Gitta. You can choose to take revenge or grant forgiveness: but, be warned, happy endings are hard to come by. You may try your best as Gitta, but sometimes your decisions will have dire consequences that reveal new paths, all while struggling to maintain your sanity.
“While Of Bird and Cage doesn’t require VR, those who have it will experience the game in all its glory.”
The striking visuals are definitely meant to be experienced in VR. The eerie character visuals and dark and scary environments immerse you into the altered reality. Gitta’s hallucinations come in the form of both a slow dive into psychosis and sharp jolts of fear just when you are not expecting them. And some of the levels, when Gitta’s story is at its most abstract, take you to another world entirely. While this doesn’t mean that those without VR should give the game a miss, those who do have it will experience the game in all its glory.
As mentioned earlier, the game is music first, which can be detrimental at times. The music is in the form of a concept album, and the gameplay works directly with the music. This means that the timing is tight. You have no time to explore, and little time to complete tasks too. This has a direct result on how the story pans out, but in a way, this isn’t all too bad. If you’re stuck on a level you will progress regardless, meaning you don’t get frustratingly stuck on a single part.
Some tasks require quick reactions by pressing buttons on command – but by the time you realise that’s what the game is asking for, it’s too late. If you are aiming for one of the four endings that you haven’t seen before, this can add to frustration and a lot of replaying to get such a minor task right.
“Next time your favourite band releases an album and music video, they just might release an interactive video game like this.”
Of Bird and Cage is unlike any other video game I have experienced. It’s part Brutal Legend, part PaRappa the Rapper, part Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, and part Silent Hill. And while it certainly isn’t a perfect video game, there is one thing I can guarantee you. This will not be the last game you see like this. If anything, this could become normal in ten or fifteen years. Next time your favourite band releases an album and music video, they just might release an interactive video game too. Sure, not everyone will do it. But when they do, you can look here for the inspiration that started it all.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PC, code was provided by the developer.