After playing a couple dozen hours of something like Dark Souls or Hellblade, if you’re like me, you want to balance that out with something light, happy, and not-at-all soul-crushing. Games like Kirby and BOXBOY! are prime examples of games that exude joy. HAL Laboratory is a company filled with people who make magic fit onto a cartridge, and with Ryan Carag’s latest, now we have a tiny ball of HAL inspiration that fits in a tiny app on your phone. Cat Bird! is here!
Checking in at a whopping $0.00, Cat Bird! is a game you should download while you read this. If Ryan Carag wasn’t at least a little bit inspired by HAL’s previous efforts, I would be incredibly surprised. The music, the swapping between planets to find levels… everything even down to the sound effect and screen flash when you get hit reminds me of Kirby’s adventures into strange new worlds.
In Cat Bird! (the exclamation point is part of the title in case you haven’t realized by now, I’m not shouting!!!) you find yourself controlling the titular Cat Bird, a small ball of fluff who can gently glide after a jump. You’ll solve puzzles reminiscent of the ones in BOXBOY! (though not often as clever) and platform your way over and under enemies who stand in your way.
Hidden crowns are found in some levels, and provide some much needed challenge to an otherwise incredibly easy game. There’s nothing wrong for a game to be easy, but I absolutely wish there was a bit more to do for an experienced player. Kirby’s Epic Yarn (one of the best games of all time) was derided for being too simple, but at least it offered several hidden objectives in every single level for more hardcore players to sniff out. The crowns in Cat Bird! not only aren’t in every level, but some are so simple to collect that it’s hard not to get them sometimes. I defeated the first boss in about 5 seconds, and was a little disappointed afterwards that wasn’t a jokey version before the real boss. Either way, Cat Bird! is a delight to blow through in an hour or two, and anything that attempts to emulate Kirby or BOXBOY! and actually pulls it off gets a thumbs up from me.