We all love a good sandbox game and with Happy Birthdays for the Nintendo Switch, that’s just what we get. Originally launched as Birthdays the Beginning on PC and PlayStation 4, we now get to play the game anywhere at any time. This game is made by the creators of Harvest Moon and sees the player create cube worlds to birth organisms. If there was ever a chance to play god, then this game will grant that wish. You’ll have to mold your world so that it can birth and withstand life. Using the various tools and mechanics available, your role is to create life and entire ecosystems that can support life and help it expand.
The two main characters in this game are your Avatar, which you can name, and Navi, which is your little companion in your journey. The avatar is your character which has been brought to a mysterious world where you have the ability to change the landscape which ultimately gives birth to life. Then we have Navi which, like the Legend of Zelda companion, aids the player by giving advice whenever you need to recall the latest objective at hand.
The game has a few different modes available for the player; consisting of a story mode, challenge mode, and a free play mode.
The story mode tells the tale of the evolution of life that your avatar helps create, so basically, you’re playing god. How cool is that? At first, you start off with a small world and as your progress, through the story, your world gets bigger. This makes the gameplay more enjoyable as you have a lot more to play with.
The challenge mode or Dino challenge are predetermined scenarios that want the player to birth certain Dinosaurs within a time limit. The first one issued is to birth an Eroraptor. You’re given a cube world and you have to edit the terrain to make this possible. Once you have completed a challenge you are then able to replay them to try and improve your clear time. They get more difficult as you go through the challenges with one asking the player to birth a Tyrannosaurs.
There is also a free play mode, which is what it says on the tin. It’s a mode where the player has free rein to do whatever they want. You want to build a tiny cube world that just inhabits dinosaurs then you can, want to try and replicate real-world places within the game? Sure give it a go! At this point literally, the world is your oyster. In this mode, you can sit back and just watch your world evolve and make it your own.
All the modes run off the same mechanics which I’m going to explain now. So the game has you make cube worlds, but to do this you have to jump between Macro and Micro mode.
Marco mode shows you your cubes status, the life news, avatar stats and the cube’s year. The cube’s status is broken down into the Air temperature, plant, animal, land, and water percentage. Life news gives you the overview of what organisms are currently inhabited in your world. It gives you the overall population as well as a symbol that indicates certain things; for example, the green arrow will indicate a rise in population and the red arrow will indicate a decrease. You have a minus sign that shows that there are no changes and then the other one is a skull and crossbones which means that an organism is extinct. While in Marco mode you are able to pause and un-pause time. As time passes the cube will evolve, and depending on whether the condition in your world is correct – organisms will be born and evolve. As mentioned above all this can be monitored by the life news and cube status. You’re able to fast forward time too, though this will drain your avatar’s health. To regain health simple return to the normal time flow and it will gradually heal over time.
The micro mode is where the magic truly happens. This mode allows you to sculpt the landscape to your own imagination, and editing the terrain will have an effect on the whole cubes temperature and stats. Make sure you are keeping a close eye on these so that you are able to tick the boxes, allowing life to be born in your world. You are also able to pick up various items while moving about your world, these items will appear when certain criteria are met; an example of this is the normal leaf recovery item. It gives the play 1000HP when used and will appear in the world when seaweed or grass spreads. You can also get items that will aid in the transformation of your world; examples of these are global warming and cooling items that change the temperature of the cube instantly, and field, mountain and valley sources that will make instant changes to the landscape. Utilising these items will not only increase the speed at which you can morph your world but will make you be able to make changes for longer without having to go back to Marco mode to heal.
While in Micro mode, you can fly around you cube and control the camera. You have an indicator on the ground that shows which cube(s) will be effected within this zone. You are able to change the landscape by increasing the height of the terrain and lower it. Lowering the terrain will allow you to make seas and rivers whereas increasing the landscape will make mountains and plains.
At first, you will only be able to change the environment slowly because you will only have a small cursor scale, though when you level up you unlock the ability to increase you cursors scaling size. You can also talk to Navi and she will give you hints and current objective information that will help you progress. When you make changes to the environment your avatar will take damage, and when your health hits zero you won’t be able to make any more changes to the landscape. At this point, you can either chomp down any recovered leaves you might have or return to Marco mode and let time pass. You are able to shape the terrain to your liking, you can make waterfalls, mountains and great vast seas but by doing this it will alter the temperature of your world. By rising the terrain it will make the world colder whereas lowering the terrain will make it warmer. To have a successful world you have to take into consideration what you’re trying to achieve and find the right balance to birth life. Though if you find it hard to get the temperature right you can always use the items to aid you.
Once you have given birth to life, animals and plants will start to appear in your world. The models for the organisms are unique as they look like clay and are very colourful. Just to point out if you have 1,000,000 of a certain animal in the world it won’t have that many models of itself in the world, it will just have a few. This isn’t a bad thing because with all the types of organisms you can create the world would just be too full and it would look clustered.
This game finds a nice balance in making your world come to life. When an animal or plant shows up in your world you might want to capture it, because by doing this you can earn XP to level up. When you level up, your scaling size will increase as well as your avatar’s health. Capturing a new organism stores its information in a library where you are able to look at all the information about it. It gives you all the information needed to keep that organism happy. You are able to flick between a Life tree and a Picture list. The life tree shows how everything is connected and how certain organism came to be, it also has hints on how to birth new organisms. You can go into First person view, which can make it easier to find new organisms that you haven’t yet captured, while in the first person view they will show on the map in the top right.
The UI for the game is simple and easy to follow as well as the game being enjoyable and fun to play. At first, it might take some time to get the hang of everything, but once you understand the main mechanics you are able to sculpt massive worlds that inhabit lots of life. The soundtrack isn’t anything amazing, and the noise the game makes when editing terrain can get annoying, but overall this doesn’t ruin your gameplay experience
When I first loaded the game, I thought that it was going to be very childish and mediocre… but I was wrong. The art style is very colourful, unique, and has a hint of Minecraft to its worlds. Though simple and fun, the game allows for the player to create worlds that can inhabit different organisms. All it takes is the right temperature and moisture levels for life to blossom. It’s in-depth look at the evolution of the world is its big selling point, even taking into consideration the food chain and how if a predator hasn’t got enough prey it will become extinct. The idea of having a world where dinosaurs and humans co-existed is amazing, and it’s all possible in this game. The amount of different organism that you can give birth to is awesome, and you can make it your mission to birth and capture them all! The joys of making your own world and playing god was simply fantastic; at times I felt like the game was moving slowly and making edits to the terrain seemed to take forever… but you know what they say – “Rome wasn’t built in a day”.