By Benny Carrillo / September 5th, 2017
|Title||The Last Birdling|
|Release Date||August 31, 2017|
|Genre||Visual Novel, Tragedy, Yuri, Nakige|
Western developed Visual Novels tend to get overlooked by a lot of traditional Visual Novel fans. While there are reasons for this, Western VN developers have been trying to bridge the gap as best they can. This makes the occasional successes even more impressive, let alone the fact a developer can flourish for five years as they hone their skills and forge their own identity. However, that’s the case with today’s game, The Last Birdling. Had I stumbled upon a hidden gem of a VN developer that had learned to soar, or was this someone still struggling to spread their wings? Well, let’s take a look.
InvertMouse – Celebrating Five Years of Indie Visual Novels
The Last Birdling is meant to be the five-year anniversary project for InvertMouse. So, let’s start with who InvertMouse is. In short, InvertMouse is a Visual Novel developer with a total of seven titles under their belt according to Steam. Interestingly, Unhack and Without Within both were apparently successful enough to warrant a sequel. In addition, two other standalone titles aside from The Last Birdling are listed, which are Cursed Sight and Bermuda. All the games seem to have positive reviews on Steam and appear to be reasonably priced, ranging from $2.99 to $6.99. The sole exception to this being the original Without Within which is free for its base edition. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t issues.
In this post on InvertMouse’s Tumblr, they reflect on their releases over the last five years and even point out the some of the flaws about them. Which is a good thing. Developers should always be open to feedback and always must strive to improve themselves. It’s a tough balancing act between having confidence in your work and still being open to criticism. That said, I hope InvertMouse does take this review and others to heart. The goal of any review isn’t just to inform the public about a game but to provide critical and honest feedback about a title. With that said, let’s start talking a bit more about The Last Birdling starting with the premise.
The Beauty and Blemishes of The Last Birdling’s Design
The Last Birdling is a Visual Novel starting Bimona, the titular Birdling, and Tayo, a human girl who befriends her. The story itself revolves around their friendship and the struggles that the two endure as Birdlings are the sworn enemy of mankind. Pinning down The Last Birdling’s genre is a bit difficult. While there is certainly a Yuri element due to Bimona and Tayo’s friendship, the game also seems to be trying to emulate the Nakige or crying game genre. Therefore, I’ve listed those genres in the data box at the top of this article, however, one word can easily sum up the idea here and it is “Tragedy”. This is not a happy tale and one should keep that in mind when going to play it. We’ll touch more on the story in a bit, but let’s start with talking about one of The Last Birdling’s strengths, its interface, and game design.
The basic interface for Visual Novels hasn’t changed in several years for good reason. It’s already done very well. There’s not a lot you can do to improve the UI for a VN and changing it is always a risk since Visual Novel fans expect things to be standardized across the genre. The Last Birdling’s basic UI follows this same pattern as you can see in the example image above. However, one thing The Last Birdling does is give you a straightforward way to not only track your progress but figure out what ending you’re on course to get.
The above image is from the screen showing your progress. As you progress through the game you’ll reach various choices like you would in any Visual Novel. These choices can award you either a point for Tayo or a point for Bimona, depending on who you’re currently playing as. The amount of points you gather for each character will decide what ending you get. Thankfully on this same screen, the game also shows you how many points you need to get each ending, which makes obtaining them simple. Some people may think this a bit too easy, and I can understand that. However, I do like the fact InvertMouse has thought of the player in this case. Really the only thing I’d change would be to maybe hide this screen until at least one ending has been reached and then open this screen up to the player to aid them in getting the remaining endings. While the progress screen is something I find as a positive, conversely the save/load screen presents a minor issue.
Take a look at the above screenshot and try to tell me what page of the save system I’m on. See the problem? While I do think that there needs to be more than three save slots on a single page, the bigger problem is I can’t tell what page I’m on because the page number doesn’t stay highlighted. This is a minor complaint in this case, but it’s indicative of a larger problem overall with The Last Birdling. Once again, we’ll come back to this, but keep it in mind for later. For now onto the next page and the music!
InvertmouseNakigeOperation RainfalloprainfallReviewSteamThe Last BirdlingTragedyvisual novelyuri