Happy Birthday, World!
I have some pretty fond memories of Viva Piñata. I don’t exactly know what it was about that game that really nailed it for me, but it was both fun and addictive to play and watch what panned out. In a sense, I get that same feeling from Birthdays the Beginning. There is a sense of watching things unfold while I altered the world a bit. That is essentially what is being done in this game, and it works pretty well in fact.
So, players begin with a story mode. Here they are treated with a story that is being told through an inner dialog. A person finds a book that directs them to a cave in the surrounding area. In that cave, the player is transported to another world where they are the architect and must craft a new world in hopes to create life. This is all done through the help of a little talking gem that directs the player on what to do next.
Platforms: PS4, PC
Price I’d pay: $30
The gameplay revolves around manipulating the environment of the cube that is presented. Mainly, raising and lowering the terrain which, in turn, will raise and lower the temperature of the cube itself. This, along with water and moisture, will eventually create life. Single cell organisms will begin to form and eventually prosper and evolve over time. It’s a very simple concept, but when put into practice, can be a rather challenging thing to accomplish when looking at what requirements need to be met in order for the next life form to live.
The story mode serves much like a tutorial that can show how the evolutionary process works. It will usually give the player an objective like “birth this creature”, and maybe give a few hints on how that is done. It’s then up to the player to maintain the ecosystem and then improve upon it to get to that. It starts off simple with some of the earliest life forms in existence, and then moves on to much larger reptiles, and eventually mammals. What is the most interesting part of all of this is how simply it is done. Raising and lowering the terrain in order to raise and lower the temperature of the environment is really the only thing that is needed. Of course, there is time as well, which can be sped up significantly in an outside view.
The player character also has hit points to are used up in the process of terra forming . HP can be recovered by leaving the construction view and going to the world view and letting time pass. At the same time, fast forwarding time will consume HP as well. Recovering HP is a simple task that really only takes less than 20 seconds. The character will also level up. They gain experience points from finding new life forms and examining them. This can be done in a full on exploration view that allows players to move freely in their cube and examine all the life. Leveling up the character will offer more HP, as well as more templates for terra forming. So, rather than raising a single block of land, I can now raise a 6×6 block, things like that.
Along with changing the landscape, players will also obtain items they can use that can affect the world. These items can make something evolve immediately, restore HP, and even raise and lower the temperature of the cube in an instant. Think of them as an easy button for when I didn’t want to wait around for the next evolution to occur. Now, using items does affect the player’s score at the end of a mission, but it’s there if people want it.
Aside from the story mode, there is also a challenge mode that has players accomplishing a certain task under special conditions and within a time limit. It’s a neat distraction, and can help the player learn more about the game, but the real draw here is the standard mode that gives players the freedom to create their own world and try to find all the life forms in the library.
The art style is very colorful and a bit on the cartoony side. It reminds me of a form of Claymation, or even some kind of puppets. It fits well with the tone and can really pop when in the full range view mode. It really impressed me when I was constantly looking at the cube in an isometric or far away view and when I would zoom in just how detailed it could actually get. It really added to it when I remembered this was once a barren cube with a few holes here and there.
If there was one thing that really got to me while playing, it would have to be the camera. It can be a bit cumbersome at times, usually when I’m lowering the land. It would clip into the land in front of the camera or sometimes be blocked completely. While it wasn’t game breaking since this game is not very active, it was most certainly noticeable.
I enjoyed my time with Birthdays the Beginning. It’s not an action game or even much of a strategy game. It has some fun elements to it that allow players to create and relax. Finding all the life forms is a fun endeavor, and one that I think people who enjoy games like Viva Piñata and to a sense, Minecraft, will have a lot of fun with it. Players wanting to create and explore is really what thing game is for. While never boring, it does have a few slow spots to it, and in here is where the players will generate their own fun creating their ecosystem.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.