The following review is based entirely on the Nintendo Switch version of the game:
Let’s clear one thing up from the out; Feather is not a game. Not in the traditional sense, anyways. Billed as an ‘ambient experience’, it puts you in control of a beautiful bird flying across a vast island.
Oh, you were waiting for more? Sorry, that’s it. I don’t mean that as some kind of a dig, either. Feather literally has no beginning and no end. Once you’ve clicked past the title screen you’re up and flying, and the only way you’ll stop is when you eventually decide to exit the game. And in between those two moments? Just flying. There are no goals, no challenges, no enemies. The idea here, then, is to provide something of a relaxation tool. A soothing sensory experience that asks nothing of the ‘player’ but provides pleasant visual and aural feedback nonetheless. It’s definitely a nice change of pace to just switch the thing on and be airborne and free. Nothing but you and a serene, abstractly rendered landmass to fly around at your leisure.
I thought this screenshot was better but the actual sun was glaring on my screen at the time
Actually, sometimes there are other people as well. Feather features a ‘passive’ multiplayer element where you’ll occasionally run into instances of others flying around. Though no form of communication is offered it’s a nice feeling just to have those fleeting moments with other, real people at random and free of pressure, similar to something like Journey.
While I absolutely feel there is a place for products like Feather, on all media and gaming platforms, the whole thing is almost entirely undermined by two core issues. The first being that it suffers from some pretty severe performance issues on the Nintendo Switch. The console isn’t exactly a powerhouse machine and Samurai Punk are an indie outfit through and through, but it’s still a visually simple game and not one that I would expect to run as poorly as it does. Almost all of the immersion or sense of calm that the game tries to instill are undone when it starts chugging along at near unplayable framerates.
That sucks because from an artistic standpoint it’s a handsome thing. The mix of organic and polygonal elements is nothing new but it’s well-executed here. Flying through clouds is a particular highlight, and the day/night cycle transitions beautifully. I imagine that on PC, free of the Switch’s technical hitches, it makes for one hell of an interactive screensaver/wallpaper generator.
Doing this never gets old, though
The other big barrier to Feather earning any kind of recommendation is that it carries an RRP of $13.50AUD. Not exactly breaking the bank, and I’m loathe to tell anyone how much to charge for their art, but when there are comparable experiences on multiple platforms that are either free or dirt cheap it’s a pretty hard sell. If the performance problems weren’t a thing, it might suit some people as a curiosity, but when it can’t even satisfy its one use case there’s little point dropping actual game cash on it.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with Samurai Punk’s attempt at a simple, chill non-game, and I’d love to see more like it. The problem is that it doesn’t do enough to justify the price tag, and even then on the Switch it flubs the execution to the point that it’s not worth the time to begin with.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch // Review code supplied by publisher