Black Bird, Onion Games’ latest title, is a bit mysterious. The game does not flat out tell you what happens in it. All people know for sure is that a little girl died from unknown circumstances. As a result, she somehow transformed into a black bird that goes to shoot up cities. It is also established that the black bird is a feared and almost legendary beast. But, on someone’s first playthrough, some meanings could be inferred. Let’s go over what I saw after beating the game for the first time.
As you can imagine, spoilers will follow.
The first time someone plays Black Bird, we see the girl stumbling out of what could be some sort of inn. She seems worn down. She drops in the street, dying, with no one stopping to check on her. One mystery man taps her with his cane, and she turns into an egg. The titular Black Bird hatches from this egg. This segment is the first thing you see on the first and second playthrough. (I have only managed to beat the game once, so I do not know if it appears past those first two.)
The first time someone goes through the game, people are exposed to what might have happened before her death. The girl is sitting outside in what could be a garden or park. A black mass appears next to her. The two stare at one another. In the second story segment, the black mass engulfs her. In the third, we see her inside of the mass. She opens her eyes and sees the universe. It is almost like being devoured by this unknown variable has freed her somehow.
The different stages in Black Bird seem to be a commentary on civilization. We start with Oppidum. This is a Latin word describing a certain sort of early settlement people would develop during the Iron Age and were considered a first step toward really settling Europe. This stage is followed by In Agris, a Latin term meaning “In the Fields.” This stage is filled with farmlands and early agrarian settlements. The third stage is Neo Lumina. In this case, I think the Latin luminare is the source of the name and the title as a whole supposed to mean “new light,” as we see the Black Bird going through a more modern city center filled with people. Stage four has a name with Latin roots too: Aristocratia. This is the most technologically advanced city, with an urban and industrial look.
In the product descriptions for Black Bird, Onion Games said, “The bird is one of the great calamities, spoken of in the kingdom since ancient times.” Since we see the bird going through stages representing multiple periods of time, with enemies that become more technologically advanced, it could be that we are seeing multiple Black Bird attacks throughout time. While we control one Black Bird, perhaps it is not the same Black Bird and is instead showing how this plague hits different societies when it reaches certain periods of time.
This may be backed up by one of the ending scenes. When you beat Black Bird for the first time, you will see the young girl we have watched in the story scenes between stages is not the only one. At the end, she is in some sort of paradise. She sits in the center of ten other girls in a field filled with flowers. Perhaps all eleven experienced the hardships of their world and their times, leading them to become the Black Bird. They could then be in some sort of afterlife, peacefully living together.
Considering this transformation and how different each stage looks, I almost wonder if the girls themselves are some sort of patient zero. All of the girls are innocent and simple. In the story segments, we see the young girl approached by this black glob and devoured by it. In the beginning, after a man pokes the fallen girl’s body, she transforms into an egg, then the black bird, which leads to her spreading a scourge across an area. Birds in general are known to spread some diseases, like West Nile Virus that can be spread by crows. While I have not gotten far in my second playthrough, due to how difficult ensuing ones can be, it is established that the man who pokes the girl in the beginning is Death, so it would help lend credence to this.
Given the nature of Black Bird, people can play and come to their own conclusions. The game can be very vague. While some things are more definitely true, such as the Insanus Maman final boss being “Crazy Mother,” people may take away different things from playing Black Bird. It is only by working hard and investing time in it that people can form their own conclusions about what could be going on. Then, those who are really good enough to keep going through it again could learn more. (To find out if it might be for you, read our review!)