You know how I know that I enjoy a game, I get that message on the screen, alerting me on a low battery capacity. It usually happens when I am so hooked that I forget to check out the battery, something I do while recording gameplay videos for my reviews.
So what game was it that got me hooked at such level that I just couldn’t stop playing? This came is called The Birdcage. It’s a mystery puzzle game with an Augmented Reality mode.
The game tells a story of a heartbroken king who lost his young son in a climbing accident. The king has locked away the ocean-colored birds that his son loved the most and it’s up to you to give unleash them to their freedom.
The Birdcage features 20 level in total and one epilogue level which can be unlocked once you collect all 60 blue gems that are hidden in each level. There are four packs in total, each corresponds to a different bird: Bluebird, Goldfinch, Cardinal, and Eagle. Each level has its own beautiful unique environment when you play it in ‘Normal’ mode (but not in AR).
I’ll talk about the AR mode from this point on, but just so you know that the Normal mode works amazingly well. The controls are easy and intuitive and I enjoy playing it in Normal mode as well.
When the game start, a cage will appear from the ground. Players have an option to adjust the height of the cage to make it comfortable to play whether in standing or sitting position. This is a very smart option. I actually talked about it way back in December last year in my Don’t let us find a table, Create one article. I’ve seen that design used in several games, including Castle Must Be Mine AR, where you had an option to adjust the height of the board. Furthermore, when you increase the height, the 3D model turns from a flat board to a table. In Birdcage, they followed the same principle, by adding a le stand to the cage and it looks really nice.
Players can rotate the cage as well, so there is no need to walk around the cage to interact with different puzzle elements. I played the game while sitting on a chair and it was a very comfortable experience. Once everything is set up or your liking you can start playing.
The Birdcage features many types of interactions with different puzzle elements that are attached to the cage. You can also obtain different items which you keep in your inventory on the right side of the screen and can drag those into different placeholders by dragging them into an appropriate location. In act, one o the items that you’ll always use in each level is a key, which you’ll need to use on a lock to release the bird.
Let’s check out some gameplay before we move on.
The goal is to find that key, obtain it and use it to open the cage and release the bird. The way to do it is followed by brain-teasing puzzles. The game has many smart puzzles that require logical thinking and careful observation. Most of the puzzles are mechanical puzzles that require movement or arrangement of parts.
Although in this AR game you won’t be running around the room, the observation element is the key part o the game design and it works tremendously well in AR.
For example, some of the mechanical puzzles require arranging puzzle pieces in a certain order, finding the right way to move physical parts, finding a logical meaning of separated puzzle components extracting items, understanding the physical structure of the cage, etc. If you are stuck, you can get a hint by watching an ad. I personally don’t recommend it, I use it once and it just made me realize how stupid I was. Never wanting to get that feeling again, I never use afterward. It’s actually ruing part of the fun in this game. I used it because I thought that the game was bugged. I actually went to the normal mode and was able to solve it, only to realize that it was way hard to find the solution in AR mode. Anyways, bottom line, don’t use any hints, it ruins the experience, trust me on this.
As you work towards solving the puzzle, you’ll find some story pieces packed in a letter which can be found in each level. Furthermore, there are blue gems scattered in different locations in the cage, something hidden. You’ll need 6- of those to unlock the prologue. I paid to unlock everything because I wanted to deliver this review as soon as possible,
This game reminds me of escape-room kind of game, where you had to find hints by observing your surroundings in order to free yourself. So it’s kind of similar approach to the design of the game, but instead of freeing yourself, you free a bird. Still, that element of observation is what makes this game such a fascinating game and if you enjoy escape games, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this game as well.
The great thing about this game is that each level is different than the others. Each one has its own unique challenges although some do repeat themselves still the gameplay feels fresh at each level.
The game isn’t too difficult, but not to easy either, like the right amount to give you a good satisfaction when you are able to solve the puzzle, but not too hard to make you just want to press that Hint button and get over with it.
The interactions are generally simple and intuitive, yet you’ll spend more time in trying to understand the scene than the actual interactions. The game takes around an hour and a half to finish, more or less. Still, I felt like I got a pretty good amount of content and II got fully satisfied finishing each puzzle.
In some ways, I felt that I want the game to be slightly more difficult, or have some like some levels with very high difficulty, something that let user literally break their head trying to solve those levels. I do hope that the developer will add some ultra-hard levels in the near future.
The Birdcage looks amazing in AR. Although you only see a cage in front of you, it’s actually all you need. Each cage is obviously designed differently, with different puzzles. The cage is designed ingeniously or AR as it doesn’t require a lot of o space, yet the puzzle interactions are still exciting and challenging.
The cage 3D model is very detailed and it’s fun when you have an animated living bird inside it, so you really feel like you are working or a greater good as you work to release this bird to freedom.
The game is on “Medium” quality by default. I only found about this later on. I recommend changing it to “High” quality if your device can run it well. Just go to the settings menu and you’ll find this setting there.
The game played equally well in both Normal and AR mode. Having said that, I highly recommend playing it in AR mode, it really makes the puzzle-solving experience so much more fun and exciting this way.
I found myself getting physically close to the cage to try to observe the fine details as I was searching for clues while getting back to enjoy seeing the bird flying off the cage in the living room space.
This game was designed well to be played in both standing or seated position and I felt no discomfort or annoyance whatsoever, everything was designed perfectly and worked smoothly.
The touch interaction felt intuitive and fun in the augmented reality mode. Sometimes you do need to get very close to the cage to interact with some very small puzzle elements. It might be annoying in other types of games, but in this game, it works in its favor and I enjoyed getting closer, trying to see whether I missed something. The funny thing is that it actually happened once, and silly me I thought the game was bugged.
The game experience is further enhanced by an atmospheric and enchanting music. Once I start playing the game, I was lost in it. I didn’t even notice.
The Birdcage is the best puzzle augmented reality game that I’ve played to date. For me, it will definitely be remembered as an amazing puzzler, alongside other amazing puzzle games that I’ve played, including AMON, AR Togater, Mazelith, Euclidean Lands and others.
The Birdcage is one of those AR games that shakes our ground and makes us think again about what kind of games we should develop for augmented reality and it does it so superbly well with its surprisingly simplistic design.
It reimagines the amazingly addicting gameplay of escape-room games in a small yet sophisticated level design.
This is a must have AR game not just for puzzle fans but for any AR game fan. It really makes you rethink your own ideas and I’m sure that this game will inspire other developers as well.
Download The Birdcage from the App Store here.