Fun fact about me – I adore games where you have a journal. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something special about collecting my game experiences in a journal for me to peruse as I play. I recently played Dordogne, and the journal was one of the saving graces that kept my attention through the slow narrative.
Another thing that I can’t get enough of in games is when you have a camera that’s relevant to the gameplay.
That second part is important. If the camera is just there for the sake of it then I may as well just take a screenshot. But I love it when the camera is used to progress the game in some manner, such as in Toem, which I played a couple of weeks ago.
When I saw that Flutter Away incorporated a journal AND a camera, I was hooked. I saw it in the trailer for Wholesome Direct and just knew I had to have it. I’m also pretty into butterflies (not as obsessed as a lepidopterist, but certainly more than your average Joe Public), so that was the icing on the cake.
Did this title live up to my hype? Found out in my Flutter Away review!
Vibrant Colors and a Rich Soundscape
Before I get into the gameplay or story, I’m going to start by acknowledging how gorgeous Flutter Away looks. As my co-hosts on the Indie Game Culture Podcast can attest, I’m a sucker for colors. I will cut a game a lot of slack if it’s cute and colorful. Similarly, I’ll be pretty heavy in my judgment if a game is visually unappealing.
An awful lot of effort has gone into making this title as beautiful and detailed as possible. It was very clever of them to incorporate the camera feature, as looking at the world through a lens allows the player to notice all the small details that they may otherwise gloss over. You can even zoom in up to 4x and not lose any picture quality.
One of my favorite features is that when you add butterflies to your journal, you don’t just have to photograph them. Your character also has to study them in detail by summoning them onto a butterfly perch. You can use this perch to inspect the butterfly from every angle, even viewing the underside of its wings. I really appreciated all the finer details, and I was impressed by the sheer creativity of the developers in this regard.
The coolest part of the visuals was the hand-drawn artwork in the journal. Whenever you filled out a new page or discovered a hidden secret, you’d get a new piece of art in your journal.
It had such a quirky aesthetic that really captured the personality of your character. I love that someone on the development team took the time to draw all of them for the enjoyment of the player.
Alongside the beautiful graphics is a rich soundscape with ambient rainforest sounds. It’s immersive and helps you feel like you really are being whisked away to this remote location to study the wildlife.
However, I can’t be certain, but I suspect that the music and sound effects were on a loop, they certainly felt that way. I think it would have been a lot more realistic if the birds and bugs that you hear in the background were interspersed more randomly.
Still, overall, the music and sound effects were very relaxing and helped create a calming atmosphere for this beautiful game. The sounds complemented the visuals superbly.
Aside from exploring the environment and discovering butterflies, there was one key part of the story. A capybara. You discover tracks for the capybara on the very first day and follow them to see her within touching distance. Unfortunately, she gets spooked by your presence and runs away.
It becomes a recurring theme throughout the game that your character attempts to befriend the capybara. I don’t want to give too many spoilers, but I will say that you get to be much closer to the Capybara than when you first meet her.
Each day, you fill out new information in your journal, and there’s even a page specifically for tracking your friendship with the capybara.
A few months ago, Tiktok randomly went very obsessed with Capybara, and they were all over my FYP. (If you enjoy Tiktok, you should follow the Indie Game Culture channel). Seeing so many short clips of them made me fall in love with them, so it was a pleasant surprise to see how prominent the capybara was in Flutter Away.
I knew it would be there based on the game image, but I was expecting it to play second fiddle to the butterflies, which wasn’t really the case.
It’s a Small World After All
Now we get into my biggest gripe with the game. It’s way too small. Honestly, it’s kind of ridiculous that they can release a game this tiny and still call it finished, especially considering there was a demo released, so not even all the content was new. I understand that they’re an indie team, and they needed to put in a lot of visual detail, but still.
The entire game takes place over three very short trails and one camp area. You can pretty much see the end of the trail even when you’re standing at the campsite.
Also, you have to unlock 2 of the trails, so for the first couple of days, you’re limited to just 1 or 2 trails. It takes the joy out of exploration because you can experience the entire map in a matter of moments.
There’s also simply not enough content even outside of the small area. When I saw Flutter Away get announced, I recognized that butterflies would be the main attraction, but I assumed you’d be able to fill a compendium with other animals and plants too.
This isn’t the case, and although there’s a section in your journal for hidden secrets, you’re not compiling data for any form of life other than the butterflies.
Speaking of which, there are only 15. Literally, just 15 butterflies to collect in a game that’s all about collecting butterflies.
You unlock 3 new ones each day, and honestly, I think that’s kind of lazy. It would be different if the game were only $5 or something, but for $11/ $13 (depending on whether you get it for PC or Switch), you’d expect more.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the content that’s there; it’s just that there’s nowhere near enough of it. I think the developers should’ve worked on Flutter Away for longer to produce a more populated game. In its current state, it can easily be completed in under an hour, which is too short even for a one-shot cozy game.
Must… Walk… Faster
I am not a patient woman. I really want to be one of those people who could live in an isolated cabin and be content just sipping tea and looking out the window, but that’s not me. I’m the kind of person who checks my phone every few minutes and gets irrationally angry if the Wi-Fi goes down.
I need constant stimulation, and given what social media is doing to our brains, I expect that many of you do as well.
Flutter Away does not provide that at all. I don’t mean because of the relaxing vibes; far from it. I actively wanted to feel calmer, and I enjoy a slow-paced game from time to time. I’m more than happy to play a game that offers little action, provided that it satisfies some form of entertainment qualities.
The beautiful graphics would’ve easily been enough to keep me happy as I loved taking pictures of the world through my camera. The problem is that it took forever to move around. Your character has one walking pace with no option to run, and that pace is slow.
My little conspiracy theorist brain reckons that was a deliberate choice by the developers to increase the time it takes to play.
They artificially lengthened the game by making it impossible to get from one side of a trail to the other in a realistic amount of time. It’s already wildly shorter than most titles would be, so I can’t imagine how short it would be if you moved at a normal speed.
I also wonder if they chose this speed to deliberately frustrate you to distract you from how little content there is. You get so worked up waiting for your character to amble along the trails that it feels extra exciting every time you encounter something new to photograph. I wonder if I’d feel that same rush if I could just walk down the routes in a matter of seconds.
The camera panning speed is equally slow, and that one is just inexcusable. I can’t fathom any reason for doing this, as it really detracts from the experience.
If I see something cool, I want to be able to whip out my camera and take a photograph of it. Instead, by the time I’ve been able to move the lens to the right angle, the butterfly may have already flown away. This was infuriating and detracted from the game experience.
Despite my gripes over the lack of content and the slow movement speed, I will still give this a 7/10, as it was an enjoyable experience for the most part. I think that’s why it’s so sad to see how small it was, as I’d have really loved this game if I could just move faster and there was more to discover.
I really appreciate the detail that went into creating the assets for the butterflies; they looked truly magnificent.
The design choices for the capybara were also excellent, she looked so cute, and that really helped me forge an emotional connection with her. The map itself, whilst decidedly limited, was colorful and vibrant, which made for perfect immersion.
However, I couldn’t, in good faith, recommend this game, seeing as I don’t think it’s acceptable value for money. You’re getting maybe 1.5 hours of content, with next to no replayability. I can’t speak to your personal preferences, and it may be that you’re willing to get poor value for money if it means you’ll have a fun experience.
After all, that’s how I feel about takeaway pizza or LEGO. But from my end, I would say that you should wait until the game is on sale for $7 or less.
If you’re looking for other games to play, check out some of our latest reviews! There’s the poignant title Venba which uses food to explore the cultural experience of two Indian parents raising their child in Canada. Or you could try Sticky Business, where you design cute stickers to sell in your very own virtual sticker store. Browse our entire collection of reviews here!
Pros and Cons
Hopefully, if you’re here, then you’ve already read the rest of the review and know my position on various aspects of Flutter Away. However, I’m sure some of you skipped straight to this section for the tl;dr. Don’t worry; I’m not mad at you. So, for those of you looking for a summary of the best and worst parts of the game, look no further.
- Gorgeous graphics that really capture the details of the butterflies
- A sweet and simple story where you bond with a capybara
- A well-designed journal where you can store all your findings and photographs
- Immersive ambient sound effects that really make you feel like you’re in a rainforest
- Way too little content to justify the price point
- You move too slowly, and the camera pans at an equally infuriating speed
- You can’t jump to a specific chapter to try and get any achievements you’ve missed, you have to replay the whole game
- The compendium only tracks butterflies, not plants or other animals
If you like the idea of Flutter Away and were looking for some potential alternatives, allow me to suggest the following:
- Beasts of Maravilla Island – This one is very similar in concept, it just does it a lot better. You play as a character exploring an unknown island and discovering the mysterious flora and fauna that populates it. The visuals aren’t quite as detailed as in Flutter Away, but there’s much more interactivity, more content, and better movement controls. On the whole, this game is undeniably better, and I’d recommend choosing Beasts of Maravilla Island instead if you can only afford to buy one or the other.
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Although the gameplay is pretty different, I feel like Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a solid alternative if you enjoy collecting animals. The game has a whole array of fish, sea creatures, fossils, art, and bugs to collect, including butterflies.
- New Pokémon Snap – If you were drawn to Flutter Away by the photography aspect, then New Pokémon Snap may be right up your street. This 2021 reimagining of the 1999 classic allows you to study pokémon in their natural habitat through the lens of a camera. You explore different biomes collecting information on the various species.
Melika played the game to its conclusion in around 1.5 hours. She then played it again to create a video walk-through for other players, and completed the entire thing in 40 minutes. Melika will not be playing it again, as there’s very little replay value.
Question: Is Flutter Away available for consoles?
Answer: Currently (as of August 2023), Flutter Away is only available for Nintendo Switch or PC. There’s been no news to suggest they’re bringing it to Xbox or PlayStation, but you never know what the future holds.
Question: How many species of butterflies are in Flutter Away?
Answer: The game has a total of 15 butterflies, with 3 new ones being found each day of the 5-day story. Of these, 10 can be discovered during the day, and 5 can be discovered during the night.
Question: What’s the name of the capybara in Flutter Away?
Answer: The capybara is named Barbara, as your character keeps accidentally writing ‘Capybarbara’ in their journal. She finds it funny to use that as the basis for naming the capybara.