Bird Mania 3D
3DS Download | Teyon | 1 Player | Out Now | $1.99 / £1.80
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3rd May 2012; By KnucklesSonic8
True to its unstated goals of creating a pick-up-and-play experience, you'll be quick to notice two of four menu selections on your first start-up: Story and Play. You wouldn't be wrong to conclude as I did that the Play option would serve as the Quickplay function while Story would deliver something of a more stage- or mission-based structure. In actuality, the Story option will show a series of illustrations along with some short-and-sweet text to provide a bit of background on the blue-coloured character you'll be taking control of. The gist of it is that Mojo, a young and rather sleepy bird, missed out on migrating with the rest of the flock and must now try his best to catch up to his brethren. As it turns out, not only is the Play option the main selection, it's the only selection as far as gameplay is concerned.
Gameplay takes the form of an automatic, endless side-scroller where you control the bird's up and down movements with some fairly smooth feedback. The game offers a variety of control options whereby you can do just that, whether you're right- or left-handed. The Circle Pad, +Control Pad, the X and B Buttons, and the stylus can all be used for this purpose. Using the Touch Screen is definitely the best way to play as the speed increases to a blur-like pace. The other thing you get to control is the caped bird's Turbo ability, which is done by pressing and holding the L or R Buttons. This is only a temporary ability, and since there's no actual meter to indicate when it's about to expire, you have to gauge it yourself to know when to release the button and apply pressure once more. That's something that would have come in handy here, but alas, the developers didn't deem it necessary to include one.
At the base of the game, what you'll find is ordinary and hardly creative. The objective is to collect as many stars and balloons as possible whilst avoiding birds and bees, as well as trees and bushes. Using the Turbo move, you can actually plow through the enemy birds and add to a score multiplier at the bottom of the screen, but crashing into bees will cancel it altogether. Touching anything else will knock out your character and send you straight to the Game Over screen where your score will be tallied and you'll be shown a gravestone implying Mojo just died right there and then. This probably wasn't intentional, but it's awfully grim for the player to realize that Mojo will always die along the way, never to actually meet up with his folks.
Bird Mania 3D incorporates a visible day/night system with the sun or moon setting in the background as you continue to move forward. While the game automatically picks up in speed, it's interesting that nighttime acts like a breather where the speed returns to a more manageable pace, as though Mojo were somehow recharging his batteries. Then, with the passing of night and the start of a new day, he seems refreshed despite his lack of sleep as the speed kicks it up a notch once more. With that also comes an occasional change in weather patterns, where falling snow or rain may prove to be a slight distraction if you don't remain focused. These are really minor aspects in the overall mix, but what all of this does is prevent the gameplay from getting too stale too quickly.
That aside, while I wouldn't call the game completely shallow, there honestly isn't a lot to it. And so, understanding this, I was a bit surprised to find that there was a slight amount of progression to be had. This becomes evident in the way you prepare for upcoming traps and get better at knowing when to use the Turbo mode. Part of the reason for this is the fact that the placement of enemies in regular portions is a bit predictable. When you have a long line of stars at the very top of the playing field, for example, there's likely going to be a bee swarming at the end of it. And when there's a series of stars that make an arc towards the bottom-half of the screen, chances are a red bird will fly through the center line. This isn't a bad thing, though. Keeping multipliers going isn't always easy, but it need not be circumstantial either. Players will find themselves having to take advantage of all opportunities whenever an enemy is seen or risk losing out by the time the gauge expires. In this case, the regularity with which certain enemies appear in set positions can be used to one's advantage.
In hyping up the release, the developers were right about one thing: Bird Mania 3D is kind of addicting to play. Maybe not to the degree they had in mind, but it will hold the attention of a young gamer for some time. It's just enough to be mildly addicting whilst not being too weak of a premise to warrant complete avoidance. But again, that's for that specific audience. When the picture includes older gamers, it's a different story. There may be some, for example, who have admired the eShop's recent success from afar but have hesitated to actually take a bite. I would advise such persons not to purchase Bird Mania 3D as there are superior experiences currently available.
Notwithstanding the points that were just made, I'd be careful not to knock the game completely if I were you. I have to commend Teyon for doing a good job with the presentation. The game has an iOS-like appearance going for it with, again, smooth visual feedback, as well as neat effects and clean menus. The game's usage of 3D hardly does anything for the game, though. In fact, not only is it more subtle than what you would have seen in, say, Steel Diver, it may hinder you from responding quickly to the changing environment. You've also been given the option of turning off the background music entirely, but I can't see why you'd want to since the main song heard during gameplay works well for what it is. Relatively-speaking, had the visuals not stood out, there would be little to grab you; thus, the presentation serves as a means of propelling players forward in ways that would normally be served by good gameplay.
For how long will players be wrapped up in this small bird's life? Not very. You literally won't last a week trying to put time into Bird Mania 3D. Yes, the price point is a safe bet for splurging, especially considering that other downloads on the service average at about the $5 range. But despite the fact that it's priced the same as a fair number of DSiWare downloads, some won't find it's worth shooting for since the gameplay itself is hardly inventive or all that gripping over the long-term. Achievements try to counter any lack of drive on the player's part, and although they aren't terribly motivating, it does feel kind of nice to have the game chime in to say that you're doing well in a non-distracting way. Still, the gameplay is just this continual stream that seldom goes anywhere.
It's a shame that the gameplay seen here doesn't complement the same degree of polish seen in the presentation, since it'll mean that the good efforts seen in this particular avenue haven't been totally worthwhile. For a $2 download, I can still give it a thumbs up for those of a younger age group as there is something to be said about the admittedly simple gameplay having avoided the mark of a totally shallow game (even if it is to a narrow degree). Everyone else, on the other hand, might want to think twice about signing up for this flight class.
18/30 - Okay/Average
Gameplay 6/10 - Doesn't feel totally shallow but there's not a lot to it, good controls, have to gauge Turbo usage, enemy patterns help with multipliers
Presentation 8/10 - Change in scenery during nighttime segments, lovely art style that propels players forward, minimal 3D, music works for what it is
Enjoyment 3/5 - Small amount of progression takes place, kids may find it addicting over time, older gamers might not find it as addicting
Extra Content 1/5 - Achievements aren't that motivating, no additional modes or stages to mix it up, low price point but there are better experiences
Equivalent to a score of 60% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System