Blackbirds is a Surreal First-Person Interactive Story Game utilizing elements of Puzzle, Platformers and Action genres. It's the debut game of Fanatik Games and published by Sparklight Interactive after succesfully developing an alpha of the game through kickstarter.
You play as a character referred to as the Performer, who finds himself in a surreal hallway called the Equilibrium. The goal of the game is to "complete your goal" as told to you by the Porter. You need to find what that is and how you can do that. In the Equilibrium, you can enter various doors to enter special locations and dates. Here's where you need to perform a task to alter the reality, represented in the visually changing Equilibrium. On your journey, you gather clues and stories of the reason behind your presence in Equilibrium and you can, if executed properly, complete your goal.
Blackbirds is heavily reliant on themes, since it has minimal dialogue and cutscenes. Blackbirds themselves play a major role, as they appear prominently in the game. The worlds you enter each have a distinctive theme, poverty, justice, freedom, security and family. The player needs to influence the world for better or for worse, indicating the player's moral stance through choices.
While Blackbirds is described as an interactive story, it doesn't incorporate things like dialogue and moral choices. Rather, it heavily relies on mood and scenery to tell the story. Gameplay is mostly free-roaming in semi-open world, looking for clues and story details, as well as ways to influence the events in that place and year. Besides exploring, Blackbirds also has puzzle segments and a miniboss-system.
The puzzles in Blackbirds are mostly in the form of riddles, while also some platforming puzzles appear. Exemples of riddles to solve is finding the right object after being told a riddle or go to a location mentioned in a riddle. Some riddles appear very vague to keep it challenging and let player's view on things influence choices. The miniboss-system is a feature that defines Blackbirds. Taking the appearance of surreal, retro and nightmarish creatures, minibosses change up gameplay by requiring a certain unique method to be defeated.
In Equilibrium, players can follow their progress, though it is never specified with stats or collected items. Rather, the mood and scenery changes, hintinng at the current situation of achieving your goal. To enter worlds, players simply choose one of many doors and enters it. To return to Equilibrium, players got to track down and approach a Blackbird. Once you are close, you'll be warped back to Equilibrium. Sometimes, defeating a miniboss will automatically let a Blackbird fly towards you and return you to the Equilibrium.
- The Performer - The playable character. The performer is a silent protagonist trying to find out what the Equillibrium is by travelling to many thematic worlds to get the answers, as well as influencing these worlds through manipulating the events occuring in it as well as the interactions between worlds to change the state of reality.
- The Porter - Main narrator throughout the game. He appears in the main hallway at the beginning and his voice is heard everytime you return to the Equillibrium, even if he is not physically there. He recollects the events as they appeared in the world, as well as pointing out visual changes to the Equillibrium to point out progress.
- The Architect - Recurring character throughout the game. Appears at certain moments to redirect the player to a specific world, where he has changed certain elements which the player needs to fix. He serves as a challenge boss, but his challenges need to be completed to progress the story.
- The Critic - Antagonistic figure. He appears randomly throughout the game, mostly as a corrupted image of a human or voice-over only, changing objectives with corrupted versions to force the Performer to adjust. The Critic and his challenges play a major role in reaching the endgame segment of the game.
- The Actor - An endgame character. His stage is unlocked after certain completions. He serves as a guide to point out hidden puzzles and the interactions in the worlds, as well as hinting what they could cause. Has distinct dialogue of always talking in a future tense.
- The Musician - An endgame character. Her stage is unlocked after certain completions. She serves as a guide to recollect interactions between worlds and how the interactions between eachother influence the progress of the Performer. Has distinct dialogue of always talking in a present tense.
- The Artist - An endgame character. His stage is unlocked after certain completions. He serves as a guide to explain the solutions behind solved puzzles, explaining what they mean to the player. Has distinct dialogue of always talking in a past tense.
- Main article: Blackbirds/List of Worlds
Due to the Equillibrium shaped as a long hallway, each world has it's own dedicated "Room". Once opened, the player steps into the room/world and the door behind has vanished. There are 12 rooms in total, 8 of them being worlds to enter.
- Luminous - Horror themed city.
- Retro - Retrofuturistic arcade.
- Freehold - Socialistic paradise.
- Morgue - Roaring 20's city.
- Liberty - Western frontlines.
- Kaleido - Psychedelic house.
- Infernal - Apocalyptic emptiness.
- Rapture - Abandoned world.
- The Save Room - Upon completing a task, the player can enter the room in the far back of the hallway, characterized as a janitor room. Upon entering, the room is dark with a single light bulb lighting an MS-DOS computer. Approaching the computer will display feeds the player has completed and the player has the chance to undo accomplished feeds. They can choose to erase them permanently or disabling them. Disabling some feeds at some point is necessary to complete the game due to spawn moments of steps.
- The Theatre - Residence of the Actor.
- The Burlesque - Residence of the Musician.
- The Gallery - Residence of the Artist.
In 2020, a downloadable expansion was released as a standalone title. It was called Blackbirds: The Parable and continues to follow the Performer as he gets a new task inside of the Equillibrium.