Chillout games are having a moment

It's a good time for relaxation games right now. Flower finally got a PC release earlier this year, and now indie devs Samurai Punk have released Feather. A very chill flying game about a bird soaring over an island, Feather is not the kind of game you win or lose. It only has one achievement and you earn it by playing once.

As a bird you can roll and flip and flap your wings or dive to accelerate. It's kind of like Fugl, only without the transformations. You're always a bird, and the aim is simply to enjoy the sensation of flight. On my first trip round Feather's island I saw the hoops you can fly through and assumed I was supposed to race through them one after the other. That would be counter to the relaxation Feather's trying to make you feel, however. 

Instead what happened each time I dived through a ring was that the soundtrack changed. It's a way of interacting with Feather's music and while there are some hidden hoops to find they're not tied to your victory or failure. This is a game you can't win or lose.

But that doesn't mean there's nothing to do. The island contains more than I expected, with secrets to discover including underground tunnels, teleporting portals, and fruit that hangs like lanterns from the trees and chimes when you pop it. If you miss your target and happen to collide with a tree or rock, colors drain away momentarily and you're rewound a few seconds to try again. It's the closest Feather comes to a punishment.

There's multiplayer too, of the ambient kind that inserts other players into your world. I have yet to experience it, perhaps because of the timezone I'm in, but it's possible to create private instances of the island if you want to share it with specific friends. 

It's not the kind of game you might expect from Samurai Punk, whose previous work includes multiplayer FPS Screencheat and a VR game where you try to perform ordinary tasks but can only interact with things by shooting them. I'm glad they stretched themselves to try something different, because I'm always down for a game that exists just to reduce the amount of stress in the world.

These three recent chillout games starting with the letter F (Feather, Flower, and Fugl) have all taken slightly different approaches and all embraced different amounts of "gameness", but I've found each worthwhile and effective in their own ways. I'm happy to see games like these, and Islanders and Proteus and plenty of others I'm sure will follow, finding their niche.

Feather is available now on Steam and Humble.

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.