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Wot I Think: Copoka

For the birds

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With Aer still somehow not out yet, I needs me some more flying about a pretty place games. Spotting Copoka [Steam page] in the waterfall of Steam releases I wondered if it might keep me going. Not really, no. Here’s wot I think:Copoka ends up as one of those nice ideas that just doesn’t quite come together. I’ve argued before that there need to be far more games about flying around as a bird, so it would be churlish for me to entirely dismiss this. The problem is, there are too many problems, from the bugginess of the game, the lack of proper satisfaction with the flight controls, and a narrative concept that doesn’t hold together.

On some levels I want to be more generous – this is a small indie game costing less than a pint of warm ale, and in many ways very pleasant. But on another I’m really annoyed by how it has described itself:

“Copoka is an open-world exploratory indie game where you play as a bird flying around a city looking for twigs to build your nest.”

Now that’s game I wanted to play. That is not a description of Copoka. It is with some bitter irony that I notice the developers are called “Inaccurate Interactive”.

This is in fact a very small enclosed city, which you can see all of from your starting point in the middle, with no meaningful notion of exploration at all. There’s nothing hidden, nothing revealed by looking over there, no openness in any understanding of the term. It feels like what might be the first level of a larger game, instead used four times in a row as the only level of a very small game. Again, small indie game – but bad description.

But take that limited (although sprawling, and very lovingly detailed) city and then let me play as a bird seeking out sticks and twigs to build a nest! That sounds adorable and splendid. But it’s not that either. It’s in fact a game about flying toward building-sized sparkling lights around the city and picking up four lots of four shiny objects, and carrying them back to your already-built nest. Yes, one of these four madly twinkling objects in each round is a twig, but no, that’s not what was described. Along the way there are 12 bonus feathers to fly into, which speed you up (barely noticeably), but I found ten of these without trying, and an eleventh after a quick look.

The real point to it all is to overhear conversations between denizens of the city as you float about. It seems there’s a fascistic leader in place in what appears to perhaps be a banana republic, with a burgeoning rebellion planning to rise up. Each time you collect four items the story advances forward (with no noticeable change beyond the conversations taking place), so you can listen in again by flying near clouds of white feathers. But fly away from them and they stop or fade out, which is utterly infuriating since there’s nothing to actually do during these unanimated chats. You just have to sit your bird there, being bored for a bit.

The characters in the world are a lovely design, and the whole place is very pretty. It has some great music, and it plays in dynamically dependent upon where you’re flying in the city. But it’s glitchy as all hell, flight not letting you satisfactorily swoop and swish as you might like, with your bird unable to take off from far too many places it can land, and clearly there is such a high expectation that you’ll get stuck clipped into the world that it monitors for it and respawns you after a few seconds. But I think more problematic is the story, an attempt to, I dunno – discuss? – regime change and totalitarianism, but I guess the polite word to describe it is “sophomoric”. The more accurate might be “bad”. In the end, it felt to me more of a piece of apologism for a dictatorship! I think that might be more to do with being badly handled than deliberate political intent. But still.

Again, so much of this criticism really wouldn’t feel relevant if the game’s own storefront (if it has its own website, I cannot find it) didn’t describe something totally other than what’s being sold. This is not an open world game, there’s absolutely no exploring, and you don’t gather twigs to build a nest.

Copoka is out now for Windows via Steam for £3.20/$4/€4.

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John Walker

Senior Editor

One of the original co-founders of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I'm now a senior editor and hero of humanity. Old and special.

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