It’s a bit of a cliche these days to refer to ‘like a Studio Ghibli film’, but The Girl of Glass A Summer Bird’s Tale is so much like a Studio Ghibli film, you’d be forgiven in dashing to Google to find out when it hits cinemas/Netflix.
However, this isn’t a film, nor is it based on one. Instead, we’re looking at a unique storyline and a bit of a fusion between genres – mixing it up with turn-based combat in a conventional point and click title.
A game by Markus with friends and En Widnunderlig Productions, we follow the story of Kristal, the titular girl of glass as she embarks on a journey of self-discovery and exploring the world around her. We started with a disclaimer about cliches, but really, that’s what this game is.
The Girl Of Glass A Summer Bird’s Tale Review – PC via Steam
Timeless. That’s the first word I could use to describe The Girl of Glass A Summer Bird’s Tale. Set in a circus in the mid 20th century, Kristal is trying to understand where her place is in society, currently boxed in with a bunch of misfits who also don’t belong.
A chance encounter with a boy she’s never met triggers off the adventure: escape with him as they set out to battle The Eagle; the over-powering tyrant who oppresses the nation, ruling with fear, espionage but ultimately, The Eagle is more of an idea or metaphor, spanning back to the dawn of time – the dark to Kristal’s light.
Kristal is a very likeable protagonist. Unlike her point and click counterparts, despite her occasional clumsiness, she’s not spouting out one-liners or a hapless idiot. She is incredibly naive, and that’s what makes her so adorable.
In The Girl of Glass A Summer Bird’s story, she will encounter numerous animals and have conversations with them. It’s said that she imagines what they could be saying, but you soon forget this statement as it feels real. Why question if the animals can talk or not? The same applies through a lot of the lucid sequences: what is real? Is what we’re seeing her imagination?
Good Versus Evil
Jumping back to the Studio Ghibli comparison, except The Eagle, there aren’t terrible people in the story, more that they have their motivation which they believe to be the right thing. We side with Kristal and see the world with innocence, and quite frankly, it’s a compelling experience.
Without picking apart the story so much, let’s cover the mechanics. As a point and click adventure, The Girl of Glass A Summer Bird’s Tale is on par with the classics in that you click various areas for Kristal to walk to, and interact with a verb wheel, an inventory option to the top right.
Unlike her peers, Kristal doesn’t need to combine irrelevant components to form something unimaginable – it’s all lovely and slow-paced. In fact, The Girl of Glass A Summer Bird’s Tale is a comfortable, linear experience when it comes to the puzzles/adventuring.
There’s never a moment where you’re unsure of what to do, and you can stroll through the narrative as if it were a piece of cake. After all, it’s about the experience and story, and the game ticks those boxes with ease, but the difference here is the combat side of things.
It’s Your Turn
The combat in the game is a little simplified but relatively enjoyable in small doses. Kristal will either go it alone against an enemy or with a companion and have a series of commands at her disposal to beat an enemy.
As a turn-based mechanic, you’ll have the opportunity to defend, attack or focus (which allows for two moves in one go), plus the occasional ‘ability’. You’ll strike or defend, then your opponent will do the same. After a series of hits, either party may become stunned, opening them up for a critical strike and more damage inflicted.
I wasn’t the biggest fan of this section as at times it felt like it dragged, or would be a battle so tight, it undid all the tranquillity experienced from the adventure sections. Depending on how you finish a fight, you’ll be ranked too, which is a bit different to the point and click genre and I didn’t care for it much, but in fairness, the combat offered some variety to an already engaging story.
The story in The Girl of Glass A Summer Bird’s Tale is narrated throughout, and the voice talent is excellent. I enjoyed every moment that the narrator would reveal Kristal’s thoughts or explain a situation in further detail. It was one of those rarities where I didn’t read the text ahead of what was being said.
This Paint Hasn’t Dried Yet
Now; the visuals. Wow. The Girl of Glass A Summer Bird’s Tale is breathtaking. This is 2020’s equivalent of when Dragon’s Lair hit the arcades as it’s a visual treat – the backgrounds looking like the works of Hayao Miyazaki.
The way that the characters interact with the often static backgrounds, along with panning and zooming in the scene is brilliant, and it feels like you’re playing an animated feature. Also, the music is stellar and is flawless.
A couple of criticisms on the presentation: as the backgrounds are digitally painted, it’s a little tricky to tell what you can and can’t interact with. A bit of a cheat with point and clicks in this age is a hotkey to highlight points of interest. I didn’t see that in this game, unless I missed it, as I often did with essential items.
Another part of the presentation that only slightly let it down was the dialogue sequences. Unlike traditional point and click adventures where the text is overlayed on the screen, the conversation is much like a visual novel and text only.
That’s ok, but it had an annoying sound effect when words were showing on-screen, and you had to move the mouse to the dialogue area to click through text when you’d read it. Come on, that took me a tenth of a second to do that! As you might tell by the tone, it’s a trivial thing, and the greedy gamer in me would have loved it if everything was voice acted. There, I said it.