This is Backlog Roulette, a series in which I randomly pick an unplayed game from my backlog and play it. As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

Once again, I’ve rolled some digital dice to randomly select an unplayed game from the horrifyingly organized spreadsheet containing all the games I own. The dice came up with Feather, by Samurai Punk. I have no recollection of acquiring Feather, but since my spreadsheet says I got it as a Steam key from the Humble store, my guess is it was included in a Humble Bundle at some point. A pleasant surprise, then, to find a lovely game about being a bird, soaring over a beautiful island.

It took a minute to get the hang of the controls. Feather is clearly designed with a gamepad in mind, although it works fine with the mouse and keyboard too. It’s just that the on-screen control prompts told me to steer the bird with the WASD keys, when it turns out steering can also be done with the mouse, which feels much more natural. My early attempts at keyboard-flying resulted in swift crashes, but thankfully the only consequence is a brief rewind, giving me another chance to avoid the collision. Just one indication that Feather is a low stress, relaxing experience.

The bird flies forward automatically, although it’s possible to accelerate with some energetic wing flaps, or slow down by having the bird pull up and flap forwards. Most of the time, however, I simply soared, banking through turns and sometimes going into a high speed dive, the wind rushing audibly past. The camera usually follows behind the bird, but it’s possible to rotate it freely to look around and catch some pretty views. And what views! The island is rendered in a low-poly, flat-shaded style that looks fantastic, and manages impressive variety in a small space. Here is a forested slope, there ocean rivulets have carved their way into the soil, leaving tunnel-like overhangs. There are snow-covered peaks, sandy beaches, basalt columns, flowing streams, and even some caverns. It’s not all natural landscape either. I flew past offshore pipes now covered in vines and moss, and stone monuments long abandoned.

It’s a lovely place to fly around, is what I’m saying. And there are extra encouragements to explore. Circular stone portals are scattered across the island, just begging to be flown through. Doing so changes the background music track, which honestly led to some abrupt musical shifts, but it was cool to hear the breadth of music on offer. It generally has a lot of piano and synthesizers playing relaxing melodies, although other acoustic instruments and occasional percussion sneak in at times. An excellent accompaniment while gliding and swooping over the landscape. There are also some differently-shaped and often well hidden portals to find which, when flown through, transform the bird into an entirely different bird. One near a rocky shore transformed my bird into a seagull, while another atop a mountain morphed the seagull into a majestic snow owl. I cursed myself for forgetting about the dedicated tweet key, which would have let me emit the characteristic calls of each bird as I flew.

Naturally, I set about finding all the portals, and just generally scouring the island for interesting places. It hides much more than I expected. Often, I would wonder if a certain bit of scenery might hide a passageway to somewhere else, and more often than not it did. My flight kept revealing more and more unexpected places and sights as the sun slowly set and the island was bathed in moonlight. I was still banking and wheeling when a beautiful sunrise brought daylight again. Just as I thought I’d finally seen everything, I explored one last area only to find it open into a huge new place to explore. I was delighted.

Feather is more generous than I was expecting, but it’s still not a huge game. I happily explored it all within a single play session. But it’s the type of game that welcomes revisits, even after players have flown everywhere. Soaring over the island simply feels great, and is an excellent way to relax and unwind. Feather captures the sheer joy of flight, and a beautiful place to explore too. This is an easy recommendation. If you fancy flying around yourself, Feather is available on Steam and, as well as for Switch, Playstation 4 and Xbox.