Short Version: There’s nothing inherently wrong with it; I just find it very boring. I can definitely see the appeal of a game like this, and it even contains some interesting messages throughout, but it’s not enough for me to actually stick with it in the long run. You capture creatures with no real reward or objective that drives you to do it more, so it just comes off as dull and uninteresting. Maybe check it out if it’s on a sale or something.
Long Version: Games about collecting things can be a dangerous balancing act. There are many games like Banjo Kazooie or even Pokemon that know how to make collecting fun. They design the game around it in a way that you are always propelled forward to continue, whether it’s with shiny trinkets or creatures to fight with. However, things can also take a wrong turn. There are many games out there that very easily follow under the trap of collecting just for the sake of doing it. Usually the reward for doing this is a trophy or the simple satisfaction of being able to say that you did it, with no actual reward or purpose brought to you by the game itself. When a player doesn’t feel like there’s any point to finding every single little thing, they tend to fall off and not bother with it. Unfortunately, this is what I felt when playing through Birthdays the Beginning.
And on the 1st Day…
I do wish to make it clear that I don’t think this is a bad game at all. There aren’t any crashes, technical issues or moments where I thought the game was broken. The real problem was that I simply got very, very bored when playing. It is no exaggeration when I say that I fell asleep 3 times during 3 separate sessions of Birthdays the Beginning. This is mostly due to the game having a great idea that is executed on very poorly. In many places, it’s too overwhelming and complicated, but in others, it’s too simple for there to be anything interesting going on.
The game does have a story, but it doesn’t really seem to matter most of the time, nor is it interesting enough to remember the details. Basically, you are a person who discovers some directions in an old book, which then leads you to a cave. Somehow, this cave turns you into a weird Power Ranger looking guy in space who is suppose to create different environments for life forms to grow. The entire time, a tiny blue Navi-looking thing called…Navi guides you, which acts as your tutorial. There seems to be a lot to take in early on, but everything basically boils down to lowering and lifting the land to create the temperature needed to make organisms evolve.
From Rags to Dinosaurs
You begin with pretty much nothing, but as you start terraforming and create the first single celled organisms, you work your way up to increasingly more complex species such as plants, fish, dinosaurs and even human beings. All of this is done with the ultimate objective of filling out your log with every single creature in the game, similar to the purpose of having a Pokedex in Pokemon. However, in Pokemon, you can train, trade and fight with the creatures you capture to slowly work towards a particular goal. In Birthdays the Beginning, you do absolutely nothing with them. No fights, interactions, or comparisons of your world with other people online. All the creatures that are created simply just walk around aimlessly and don’t do anything, other than to wait to be scanned by your Power Ranger avatar. There is certainly a feeling of excitement when manipulating the world in a way that finally brings about the birth of a new species, but that fades away very quickly when you ask yourself, “Now what?” Nothing, that’s what. You break your back twice to have the world be just right, have the creature be born, then move on to the next one. There aren’t any rewards or useful things that come out of creating that creature; you just did it because you did it.
The way this game controls doesn’t make it worth the effort either. The way you manipulate the environment is by using different sized grids to lower and lift the land, creating seas or mountains. The problem here is that whenever you want to be more precise with your terraforming, you cannot pick more specifics shapes like lines or rectangles. You only have the option of moving a single square or a bunch of other giant squares, which screws up all the other terrain you didn’t want to move. Because of this, you end up having to slowly move every single individual square, bit by bit, which takes forever. If that wasn’t bad enough, all of that movement uses up an HP meter. When it runs out, you have to stop and recharge. This serves no purpose, since there’s no real time limit or opposition that’ll punish you for running out of HP. The recharge is incredibly fast as well, so why even have a limit when the refills are very quick? Basically, this arbitrary meter is simply there to create a speed bump to the already painfully slow process of manipulating the land for barely any rewards. This aimless creation is not worth the effort, especially when struggling with clumsy controls, an awkward camera and an incredibly inconsistent frame rate for a game that’s just a giant cube in space.
Eco the System
To make matters worse, the world you create becomes more and more delicate as you progress further. There will be many times where you will have to drastically change the world in order to meet the requirements for a single life form to come about. Then, you’ll be asked to create another life form, whose requirements are almost a polar opposite of what you just created. When all the changes are done, you create a new creature, but end up killing off the one that you literally just made; and if that defunct creature happened to be an important participant in the food chain, then you have to retrace your steps and change the world again to bring that creature back. It’s a frustrating balancing act that can leave you making more mistakes than successes, to the point where most of my creations came completely by accident.
The music doesn’t help in making the game more fun either. You’re going to spend the vast majority of your time listening to the same slow, boring, uninteresting set of tracks over and over again. Aside from the occasional Birthday and species extinction jingles, you hear the same music drone on forever. This is definitely the kind of game that requires you to load up a podcast or a music playlist if you plan on playing this in long stretches. From the title screen to the main gameplay, it’s always the same torturously dull song.
Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this game to most people. If this is precisely your favorite genre to play, go ahead. However, I think I’ve seen many other games execute on this same concept in a much better way. The gameplay is a massive chore that gets more frustrating over time. There’s no incentive to go all the way other than to continue to stare at animals that don’t do anything. The music is dull, the controls are uncomfortable, the challenges aren’t fun and nothing ever really amounts to anything. This has the potential to be so much more, but right now it seems like a great idea that fell short in too many ways.