BirdGut  |  FreeXP: free games worth playing

BirdGut | FreeXP: free games worth playing


Hi, I’m Pug, and welcome to Free XP, a series
about video game experiences that are in some way unique or interesting, and are ONE HUNDRED
PERCENT FREE Today, I wanna take a look at a strange little
game called BirdBut. On a the surface, BirdGut is a game with simple
charm You play as a bee who gets swallowed by a
giant bird. The inside of the bird is a factory and the workers are brainwashed bugs You team up with a resistance cell living
in the bird’s stomach, and execute an escape plan involving high explosives and the bird’s…anus? Does a bird even have an anus? Cloaca “In animal anatomy, a cloaca is the posterior
orifice that serves as the only opening for the digestive, reproductive, and urinary tracts” The games has platforming, puzzle solving,
and some light combat It’s got a nice hand-drawn aesthetic, and
that special small dev team charm And, like a lot of charming games from small
teams, it’s rough around the edges The camera sometimes to struggles to keep
up, or lurches ahead, It can be hard to tell the background from
the foreground, And the movement feels kinda slippery This isn’t a really big problem early in
the game, when it’s more focused on tone and story than any kind of a mechanical challenge,
but near the end of the game, when some precision platforming elements come in, it can be frustrating. But it’s absolutely worth playing through
it for the story The game’s opening cut scene shows the bee
you’ll play as growing from a larva. The moment you hatch, the guard bees on duty
say you “didn’t come out right”, and toss you out of the hive. Right after you learn the basic controls,
you find your way to the unemployment office, where a line of other bugs are waiting to
apply for benefits. And when you get to the front of the line,
y’know the logical thing happens A giant bird crushes a guy to death and eats
you and everyone else in sight And that’s all before the title screen Right after you’re swallowed, you go down
a conveyor belt where each bug gets sized up and assigned a job. The bird sums you up in one word: “Disabled”
– and assigns you to the stomach. At the end of the conveyor belt, each bug
gets brainwashed to unthinkingly perform its task – except you, the only bug immune to
brainwashing. SO BirdGut comes right out the gate declaring
“this is a game about Disability, Ableism, and exploitation of labor” And that, by itself, isn’t unique in a game But in a hand drawn, campy, puzzle platformer
that takes less than 2 hours to complete, I was eager to see where they would take those
themes. The game being…pretty janky actually ends
up working to its advantage in some ways It’s frustrating wondering “is the camera
supposed to be here? Is this supposed to work this way? Is any of this Intentional?” But getting the player to ask that – is this
intentional? – actually ends up letting the game do some
things a more polished, mainstream game might not get away with. Like, here. This is the first enemy encounter in the game
– pretty much every enemy in the game is a mind controlled bug. But these brainwashed buggos are also the
regular npcs, and you can see them all over the game, working in the different areas of
the bird. So it’s hard to tell which ones can hurt
you and which ones are safe. You don’t have an attack for most of the
game, so there’s no way to check which ones are enemies until you’re right up on them. In most games, I’d call that a flaw – can’t
tell enemies from background characters But in a game that’s already got me in a
mindset to be asking “why is this the way it is?”, I’m more inclined to think this
isn’t an oversite – this is just how this world works You can’t tell who’s going to try to hurt
you until it’s too late You can learn over time which sprites are
enemies and which are workers, but there are new enemy types often enough that throughout
the game, I had these moments of pause Is this bug friend or foe? And that got me thinking about this kind of
game – It’s a 2D platformer, it’s pretty short, straightforward story about getting
from one place to another – games like this tend to use a kind of short hand for enemies
that we’re all pretty much used to. They’re immediately recognizable from the
way the look. In Super Mario Bros. 3, you see a koopa, that’s
an enemy. You see a toad, that’s a friend. You never have to go “hey wait – is that
toad secretly a spy loyal to Bowser? Is this koopa running at me trying to defect,
and help save the princess?” And, I’m not saying Mario would be better
if you had to wonder about the political ideology of every goomba But I’m just impressed BirdGut got me to
think about the internal lives of the enemies at all Plus that one time Goombas and Koopas were
just kinda regular people was pretty dope So, speaking of the enemies there was one
other thing I thought was interesting about them You, the bee, don’t have an attack – you
can just run and jump – so you have no way of defeating enemies. But a lot of enemies will accidentally defeat
themselves – if you can trick them into it These snails with grenade launchers will blow
themselves up if you stand near them The stag beetles will charge at you, and break
down destructible walls if they miss This giant worm will lunge at you, and knock
these blocks onto its head And it’s nothing new for video game enemies
to give you the opening to damage them, or hurt themselves on the environment But I think it’s pretty rare, in a game
with enemies that can kill you, for the main character to do this kind of nonviolent combat For most of the game, you don’t really do
anything to the enemies. They just refuse to check themselves, and
so are doomed to heck themselves This could just be a reflection of the developer’s
vision for a puzzle based game – it’s more about figuring out how to kill an enemy than
actually killing the enemy – so you’ve got a protagonist who can’t actively fight. But, near the end of the game, you actually
pick up a gun off an enemy’s corpse, and from then on, you go on the offensive. So, it’s not that the bee CAN’T fight
– enemies early in the game have guns and grenade launchers – the bee could have picked
one up and went all Rambo on the bird gut Having you pick up a gun near the end of the
game recontextualizes the early game enemy encounters It goes from combat about puzzle solving,
to combat about the effectiveness of pacifism and non-violent action And makes the player think about what makes
the bee, end the end, pick up a gun, and mow down the same kinds of enemies they refused
to kill at the start of the game. Now, there could be a mechanical reason you
go most of the game without the gun – the shooting is one of the weakest mechanics in
a game that already was distinguishing itself for being mechanically robust. But, because of the interesting story themes,
and the fact that this is game is clearly a labor of love, released for free, I’m
inclined to view things that could either be just an artifact of the development process,
or an intentional artistic choice, as the latter. That’s not to say the story is perfect. By the end of the game, it felt like they
didn’t quite know where to go with the themes about disability and ableism. The bee is the only bug who’s immune from
brainwashing, so, there’s something there about the value of different experiences but that might end up in Rudolph territory
– kind of a, you’re valid because you’re useful thing, which seems counter to the rest
of the game, where bugs who have been told they’re valuable only because they can perform
labor in service of the bird resist this mindset and rebel against the bird. That could lead to an interesting discussion
on the treatment of people with disabilities and other marginalized groups within revolutionary
organizations, but by the end of the game, theme is kind of taking a back seat to the
action. For the most part, though, the narrative and
the mechanics work together pretty well, and feel like they were designed to support each
other So, before you go and download BirdGut, there’s
one more thing I have to bring up. On the loading screen, when you boot up BirdGut,
you’re gonna see this logo And some players are going to quit the game
right then, and never give it a chance, just because it was made in Unity But please, don’t prejudge BirdGut because
of the engine it’s on I’m not saying that you can’t tell it
made in Unity And, if you’ve ever spent a couple hundred
hours messing around in unity, and working with tutorials because you think you’re
going to be a big time gaming youtuber who includes custom game content in her videos,
like an absolute buffoon Then you can see some of those Unity finger
prints. The physics feel like a variation on the standard
2D pipeline physics, Maybe with a raycasting system for character
collisions, The camera feels like it’s shifting between
virtual cameras in scene And so on But that’s all just factual information,
not a value judgement – knowing the engine in a game can’t tell you whether you’ll
enjoy the game, or get something valuable out of it Games made in Unity get a bad rep – and I
think it’s really Untiy’s fault If you use their free license, or some of
their cheaper options, you have to put MADE IN UNITY right on the front of your game,
like in BirdGut But their more expensive licenses don’t
make devs say they used Unity. So you end up with really high quality, polished,
professional games made in Unity, and no one knows they’re a Unity game. And then you get games made by hobbyists,
or they’re someone’s first game project, that are less polished, less professional,
and those are the ones that say on them – This Right Here is a Unity Game And so, people make fun of “Unity Games”,
but they love Cuphead, and Ori in the Blind Forest, and a whole bunch of other great games
made in Unity. And, I think BirdGut gets caught between these
two extremes in Unity – the award winning indies, and the hobby games. It’s loose, and janky, like a “Unity Game”, But it shares its DNA with a bunch of really
amazing and pretty universally loved indie games made in Unity. I think the most salient example here is Hollow
Knight Both games have a distinctive, hand drawn,
2D animated art style They’re both in interconnected, daunting
worlds that make you feel small and powerless, And they’re both in a crumbling society
of bugs. BirdGut also has a lot in common with Piku-Niku. They’re both short and sweet games about
a mute protagonist doing some light puzzle solving, teaming up with a quirky terrorist
organization, and overthrowing a capitalist oppressor BirdGut didn’t have the resources behind
it of either of those games, and it shows. But if you’ve every played Hollow Knight,
or Piku-Niku, or Night in the Woods, or Ori, or Cuphead, or any number of really excellent
2D games made in Unity, and been blown away by the artistry and skill of the developers,
and wondered how they made these rich worlds and compelling characters, I think playing
BirdGut will help you appreciate those games even more than you already do. And that alone makes BirdGut worth playing. Thank you so much for watching! What free games do you want more people to
know about? Let me know down in the comments. And if you liked this video, subscribe for
more on interesting free games, and lots more coming soon


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