While the Tour De France is currently zooming about the Alps, the next stage of my own cycling journey through video games leads somewhere far flatter—and weirder. Bird Snapper is a nice little free game that's just you, an endless grey desert, a bicycle, a howling night, and innumerable antennae and electricity pylons. A walking simulator on two wheels, with a bell.
There you are in a vast grey desert. Hills line the horizon impossibly far away. A few birds drift through the sky. An unfathomable array of antennae, pylons, and hovering billboards (?) dot the landscape, towering about the spindly desert plants. It might be another planet? But you do have a bicycle. So hop on and head wherever you want, enjoying the strange mood of this strange place and the slight horror of the loud night which falls every minute or so.
I like it. A nice little mid-noughties walking simulator atop a delightfully simple simulation of a bicycle: just noises and a handlebar sprite taped to the bottom of your screen. And the ability to ring your bike's bell as much as you please. More video game bicycles need bells, and every bike with a bell should let me tring-tring-ding-a-ling at will.
Finding myself in the middle of a strange place with alarming darkness fast approaching does remind me of times I was unprepared for real bike rides. Soon after I got back into cycling, I tried to go to my favourite beach. It's an 87-kilometre round trip and at that point, I had never cycled such a long distance. While I now comfortably do it inside four hours, that first time took me nine miserable hours: three out and six back. Trundling along dark country roads on exhausted legs, standing up out of my poorly fitting saddle to relieve aches, rationing my final sips of water, and hoping I was correctly remembering a route I knew only as a passenger on daytime car journeys, I got home at 2am. A series of decisions I wish I could say I had properly learned from.
At a certain point in being lost, a bicycle feels like a multiplier of mistakes. The speed might get you back on track sooner but you could be speeding away from your salvation. I have, at times, got off and pushed for a bit while thinking about my next move. While I know that going 30 minutes in the wrong direction on a bike is probably better than 30 minutes going the wrong way on foot, taking just as long to backtrack while offering a greater chance to find familiar ground, knowing it's a longer distance feels worse. I don't think Bird Snapper has a right or wrong direction. It doesn't have any end I've ever reached. And yet, I do worry I'm going the wrong way as I instinctively head for the bright light on the horizon.