Hummingbird Mind isn’t as much a game as it is a visual story about the distractions of everyday life. Unlike Cardboard Computer’s other well-known game Ruins (check out Lynchrabbit’s review), it features absolutely no gameplay, just text choices. Even though my suggestion is to skip it, it’ll take you less than 10 minutes if you want to give it a try. You can find it here.
Since the game engine is nothing more than text selections, the screen images are (intentionally) pixelated and lacking color, and the music is bland and repetitive, all that I can talk about is the story...
Unfortunately, though some of the metaphors and anthropomorphisms that are used to describe Attention Deficit Disorder are vaguely interesting, ultimately the writing isn’t anything special and plot development is not terribly intriguing.
It is important to understand that Hummingbird Mind is not a game but rather is an “interactive story” or “visual novel.” You select response options from the text choices put in front of you. There is only one way to get to the end, so if you make the wrong choices, you will just be led back to the options again until you select the right one. It feels a bit like driving a streetcar: you can go forward or backwards, but never off the rails and never at the speed you desire.
In theory, I’m OK with interactive stories. I think they are a means to get people to read something that they otherwise wouldn’t, but honestly, I would much prefer these stories be made into narrative games. For instance, even though the story was linked by nothing more than walking, Ruins was a narrative game that was able to give you some sense of immersion through basic exploration.
Still, Hummingbird Mind could have been a good experience if the story was compelling enough to get into. I understand the creator’s desire to portray daily distractions in a unique way and I think there is a really good story somewhere in there, but none of your choices contribute to the resolution of the almost non-existent plot. In the end, the character simply does what he has needed to do from the beginning, despite no real revelations or changes in motivation. I know Hummingbird Mind is supposed to be abstract and impressionistic; nevertheless, if a story is going to be interactive, it should feel like you are actually interacting with it.
I’m not saying the developer was foolish or untalented; it’s just that Hummingbird Mind doesn’t quite work for me. I appreciate the subject matter but just don’t feel like the story is even trying to do anything with it. The whole thing seems like a bit of a missed opportunity. There are certainly worse ways to spend a few minutes of your day than playing Hummingbird Mind, but, like its main character, you could probably be more productive.
Developed by Jake Elliot and friends at ‘Cardboard Computer,’ Hummingbird Mind was released in August of 2010. It’s available online at cardboardcomputer.com. The game has been well-received by the internet community and adds to the developer’s growing list of short computer games.