To a Starling

A game by Peteksi for PC, Mac, and Linux, originally released in 2022.
To a Starling is a puzzle platformer featuring a starling on a quest to collect blueberries. Unfortunately, these berries are located in some pretty hazardous locales that are packed with dangers like spikes, water, and… even more spikes. Snagging berries isn’t easy, but our avian hero has one trick up its feathered sleeve that most birds (presumably) do not: the ability to teleport.
You have only a couple of tools at your disposal: the ability to walk to the left or right, the ability to teleport to certain orbs, and a highly variable jump with lots of midair direction control… which you’ll need to navigate some extremely tight spaces with mere pixels standing between success and bird-kabob. Getting killed or leaving the room resets the current puzzle, and you’ll sometimes need to purposely kill yourself if you put yourself in an unwinnable situation, but puzzle rooms are small so this is a minor inconvenience.
As is typical of games featuring teleportation, your momentum is preserved, which is the key to solving most puzzles. Early on, you are presented with green orbs that simply hover in the air. By jumping and immediately tapping the TELEPORT button, you’ll fly out of the top of the orb, at which point you’ll need to make a safe landing on the far side. A short tutorial offers a few screens to test out the basic mechanics before you enter a life-or-death fight for your favorite fruit.
Puzzle rooms are single-screen environments, and most puzzles are solved using just what you see onscreen when you enter, but screens are linked together (featuring pause-and-scroll transitions), and so sometimes the path forward requires you to leave a room and reenter it from another side. It’s possible to transition freely from screen to screen, but backtracking isn’t really possible in most areas, and even when you do go back, it’s only ever by one screen. Once you manage to grab a berry, you just need to make it through a screen transition to collect it… which is usually more difficult than it sounds.
As you traverse the environment, puzzle solutions grow more complex. Instead of teleporting to a stationary orb, you begin encountering challenges where the orb drops out of the air when you pass through it, requiring you to act quickly so you can teleport again before it crashes into the ground. Of course, you also need to be mindful of its position as it falls so you don’t accidentally teleport into a wall of spikes. Later challenges see the green orbs dropping into receptacles where they are held temporarily until you teleport again, and there are UP arrows that send you flying high into the sky, allowing you to use this momentum for high-velocity teleportation challenges.
Often there are obstacles in the environment that must be cleared by touching a red orb. These can be walls that block your path, hovering spikes, and even platforms. Being able to make platforms disappear is a blessing and a curse, as you're clearing the path but also removing a safe spot to land. You’ll need to plan out several moves in advance if you want to teleport, land on a platform, jump, teleport again, and then try to make a safe landing elsewhere.
Things get really complicated when you encounter teleportation orbs that move in relation to your position. These are attached to the ends of rods that move around in a circle and remain 180 degrees away from you at all times. This means that you need to jump, pay attention to where your endpoint is, and then teleport at just the right moment. This may mean teleporting while falling, maneuvering around rows of spikes to get to the perfect spot, and then teleporting again. Puzzle designs here are very clever and explore every possible variation on the theme.
Technically, collecting blueberries is entirely optional, although doing so is an enticing challenge for skilled players, and completing the game – which can be done in under an hour, even when collecting all berries – presents your completion time and the number of berries collected. It also unlocks a no-hit run if you truly want to put your skills to the test, but this is recommended only for top-tier experts, given the narrow margins for failure.

To a Starling was developed by Peteksi using PICO-8, with music by Chris Donnelly, a.k.a. Gruber.