Black Bird begins with a dark story that quickly turns bizarre, but moves at such a quick pace that you can’t help but get caught up in it.
You play as a little girl who dies, alone and unloved, in the opening cutscene. Reborn as a blackbird with the ability to shoot things, you take revenge on the world that failed you. You hatch from your egg and leap into the sky, an angry black smudge with a bright eye and a sharp beak, and go on a rampage around town.
The game plays as a 2D platformer. You get points by killing all the people on each level. Each character you kill bursts into bright green gem stones, which you collect to earn points. Your goal for each level is to destroy all the larger enemy targets and gather as many points as you can along the way.
You begin with a certain number of lives and can only replace any you lose if you happen to find them on your killing spree. You effectively have an unlimited supply of bullets to shoot with, but only a limited amount of bombs, which again you can replenish if you’re lucky enough to come across any.
At the end of each level, there is a boss you need to defeat to progress to the next platform. These are wonderfully designed and fit perfectly in with the darkness and weirdness that infects the entire game. You face everything from creepy clowns to absurd robot monsters that are each challenging in their own way.
The sepia tones of the colour scheme, combined with the 8-bit art style, gives Black Bird an atmosphere that feels almost vintage and definitely enhances the dark storyline. Add an incredible orchestral score in an eerie imaginary language and the game makes for a really intriguing experience.
The plot itself is told through cutscenes after each boss. You get glimpses into the life you led before you became a vengeful bird. Although it’s grim, it’s also sweet and darkly funny, given you see it all within the context of the revenge you get to wreak upon the world. There is more of a story than you might expect from such a simple game and even has eight alternate endings to unlock.
This, plus the fact that playing through after completing it once offers you new enemies and characters on your next run, gives it a decent amount of replay value.
Black Bird isn’t an especially difficult game to play. It’s easy to pick up and it’s not too hard to figure out some combo moves or to develop a play style that suits how you like to attack. It provides enough challenge to keep it interesting, but is easy enough to power through if you know your stuff.