I hate to say it but I just couldn’t get into Birthdays The Beginning. It wasn’t for a lack of trying either. I’d watched the previews beforehand and still thought, no, I can make this work. It looks like fun, the graphics are adorable, and the concept sounds cool! Unfortunately I tried out two lengthy game play sessions to really get into Birthdays and I just couldn’t. It’s not for me.
Essentially the core mechanic that you really get to play around with early on, or possibly throughout, is raising and lowering the temperature of your play area by raising and lowering the land and sea levels. That’s fine, but what it boiled down to was me just sitting there and trying to find the right balance to create the life I wanted. I’m sure more factors come into play as you go along, but that’s as far as I got because I kept messing up. Everything was going smoothly. I even had some happy little spider dudes popping in that had been created by the right mixture for life. Then… things just went wrong.
I did struggle with the mechanic a bit, and I guess I just messed up because my land form seemed to be reverting. My creatures were disappearing and becoming extinct and my progress was faltering. I now had to try and undo the damage I’d caused. Sadly though I wasn’t sure how to do that. Finally I just gave up, which was a shame because I did want to play more. I just wasn’t any good at it. I don’t know if I missed one message in the tutorial that was crucial to my progress or what, but I just couldn’t get my land back to where I needed it to be.
The best description I’ve seen for Birthdays is that it’s too passive. I completely agree. Yes in the early hours I was playing with the thermostat. But in general that’s all I was doing. I’d collect data on my creatures, and change the temperature to try and evolve them further to progress life on my biome. Things looked cool, and I was having fun. But when it faltered I just didn’t know how to fix it.
Don’t get me wrong, a lot of this could be on me. Maybe I’m just terrible at the game. I was going in with images of Sim Earth on my mind, but Birthdays is it’s own thing. The concept of the game isn’t bad either. There is actually a story that features you working with a sentai like being that helps you reform the land and basically works as your cursor. He guides you through the tutorial and story. The game itself is even split up so you’re building on top of your creation, but there are chapters to the story.
It’s not just playing with the temperature really. You can zoom out and speed up the time of your biome both to recharge your helpers power level and to see things progressing at a much faster rate. Your land evolves as time goes on. Or if you’re like me you end up with scorched Earth and watch as skull and cross bone icons pop up to indicate the extinction of your various species.
In general I wanted more control. I’d have been a lot happier if this game borrowed a lot from Harvest Moon and allowed me to interact with my creatures as the game progressed. If it let me raise my own evolution farm, I would have been thrilled! But Birthdays is a different kind of beast. To me, it felt just a touch overwhelming. Like a board game your friends are trying to explain to you and you don’t understand some of the rules so you just play terribly. I just didn’t get it and that left me feeling kind of dumb. I have this big complex game to enjoy, but for some reason all my creatures were dying off and I was terrible at it.
Maybe Birthdays will work out better for you. I feel bad writing this review because I’m sure there is a decent game under the hood here. But I did invest a lot of time in trying to make it work on my own, and I failed pretty miserably at it. You could have better luck.