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Birthdays: The Beginning

Posted by GG Goblin On May - 23 - 2017

This ain’t no farm building game.

From the creator of Harvest Moon, Yasuhiro Wada, comes a game that is both different and similar to his previous farm building games. Developed by Arc System Works, Birthdays: The Beginning is a very strange best, seeming to offer glimpses of games such as Populous and Spore, while maintaining the tranquility and ecosystem management that can be found in the Harvest Moon games. But there is no milking of Cows in Birthdays, as the player has much bigger fish to fry. First, however, they must evolve the fish…


In Birthdays, the player is charged with creating and evolving an entire ecosystem on a strangely cube shaped planet floating in space. Trust me, it gets weirder. Play starts with the players character wandering quite happily in the woods. They then come across a glowing cube and are transported to what is a blank canvas of a world, which happens to be cube-shaped. You are also introduced to Navi, a strange creature that wants you to help create life on this barren cube. Told you, weirder.

This is world creation down to the most complex detail. The player is given an avatar, a strange floaty being that you can move around and have do all of the work. That work will predominantly involve raising and lowering the ground to adjust the temperatures of the climate, while also dealing with water placement. These little adjustments are what is need to bring life to the world.


Navi does attempt to guide the player with a tutorial, but it is not the most thorough. It explains how to manipulate the environment to make the necessary changes, and also how to use certain items that can be found for different effects, such as evolving a creature into something new, or instantly making a mountain appear. However, Birthdays is not very inviting from the offset, with a very busy screen that throws information at the player, and unfriendly controls, so it is quite easy to get lost and confused. Players will need to put the time in to learn all of the intricate systems at play here if they are ever to reach the age when dinosaurs roamed the cube, or beyond.

The little avatar that the player controls has a limited number of HP, which diminish as the avatar does things on the planet. However, these can be recharged by zooming out from the planet and going into Macro mode. While making alterations on the planet, the player is in Micro mode and time stands still. Zooming out into Macro mode, not only does the avatar start recharging, but time starts moving and so nature takes its course on the planet.

While the actual mechanics of the game may be a little trial and error, the goal is quite simple. Players will want to manipulate the environment of their world to create life, and from there more and more complex life. At the beginning, this is as simple as ensuring a certain range of temperature and a certain amount of water. But then, the more complex it becomes, more and more requirements will be needed, such as species only appearing if there are a certain number of other species. And as the player changes things up to bring about a new species, pre-existing species may die out, and they may have been required for other species further down the line.


It all comes down to numbers. As the player progresses, they will be able to gather information on the species that they have, giving them a better idea of what the species need to survive and flourish. Then, it is down to watching the information on the screen and making small adjustments to get it just right. Thing is, it is incredibly easy to tweak things just too far in the wrong direction and kill off another species. Players will spend a lot of time watching the temperature rise and fall, hoping that the new mountain they have created doesn’t kill everything off, and checking the humidity is just right for a type of creature that is required for another creature to survive.

And sometimes it is just about luck. Somewhere behind the scenes, I am sure there are some really eloquent formulas dictating what is happening on screen. But sometimes it just feels like things are slightly out of the players control, and species disappear and reappear with no real understanding of the rules. I don’t know, there are a lot of complex systems at play here, but I think that for players to evolve their ecosystem from having simple jellyfish to containing massive dinosaurs and the like, a little bit of luck may be involved.

Considering how complex the game can be, and the abundance of data that the player will have to take into account to be successful, Birthdays does look quite cute. It’s quite odd, there is a cartoony overlay to the game, which is especially visible once you reach the larger creatures. But then there are numbers upon numbers, and lists to work through. It’s bright and colourful one minute, and as charming as a spreadsheet the next. The visuals seem to be aimed at the younger gamers, but the gameplay would be more suited to accountants. It’s all a bit confusing.


Birthdays: The Beginning is a very unique take on the god game genre. It can be relaxing and empowering to play, yet equally can be confusing and complex. There is something quite exciting here, but it is too reliant on stats. The interface could use some improvement, and the game really needs to be friendlier. For some, Birthdays will be a wonderful time sink. Others will be put off once the tutorial begins. Either way, Birthdays:The Beginning is an interesting experience.




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