[Review] Happy Birthdays - Nintendo Switch
Happy Birthdays is an updated version of Birthdays, the Beginning, which released last year for PS4 and PC. In Happy Birthdays, you take on the role of a god. You stumble into a cave and find a strange cube and a little voice asking you for your help with creating life on this cube world. This is a strange request, but how often do you get the opportunity to play god?
Unfortunately, being a god isn't the most interesting thing in the many worlds, but it is oddly satisfying. Your primary objective is to take a newly birthed cube planet, and manipulate the weather, humidity, flora, and fauna using poorly explained controls and skills to foster the successful evolution of modern humans. You have a checklist of different species that you can choose to bring into reality beyond that, but they are completely optional. The initial tutorial doesn't do a great job of explaining how you play the game, but it also prompts you with relevant information as you play through the game.
The primary objective is modifying the landscape to raise and lower the temperature and humidity of your cube world. If you're ever lost as to what your current objective is, you can click in the right stick to be reminded. This will tell you which species you need to create, and the conditions that you have to meet to get there. Generally speaking, those conditions are a temperature and humidity range, the already achieved evolution of one or more species, and a minimum amount of that/those species. I'll walk through a little bit of that below. To check on the stats of an individual square of land/water, you simply hover your avatar over top of it, and an onscreen menu will tell you the elevation, temperature, and humidity. As you progress through the game, you will be able to make your cursor selection size bigger to affect larger areas of the map at once. Thankfully, this doesn't take too long.
To achieve the appropriate temperature, you need to manipulate the ocean or land elevation. If you need the planet to warm up, you make the ocean larger. You do this by lowering coastal land to be below the surface of the ocean, but also making it deeper below the surface level. To lower the temperature. you reduce the size of the ocean, or you make higher elevations. Generally, this means that you'll be selecting a large portion of land, and then raising it's elevation an astronomical amount. You can spread out the land elevation if you choose, but that's part of the sandbox nature of the game. I honestly never had to modify my humidity in the game, but to do so you can make valleys and seed rivers to create humidity in really dry areas.
To create specific types of species, you must pull up your menu and read their conditions. You then find their already existing evolutionary link, and apply the Evolution skill to it once you've brought the temperature and humidity in line with the prerequisites. Do you need to have a certain amount of that species before you can evolve it? Hit it with the Water of Life skill to make it more fertile and then go to macro mode. In macro mode, you will start the ticking of time, and it is highly recommended that you fast forward time until or unless you're low on HP(which drains slowly when you are modifying the landscape and fast forwarding time). Fast forwarding time doesn't take super long, but it seems like it takes forever if you're under the impression that you must get to the 4.5 billion years to see modern humans. You don't, but each million years takes about four minutes in game to play out.
To recap- change the temperature by raising and lowering terrain (R/ZR), find the creature you want to evolve into something else, and make it more fertile or use the evolution skill. Need a certain plant to evolve or flourish? Satisfy it's conditions the same way. You can also choose to help a species flourish by tracking down it's predator and making it go extinct with the appropriate skill, but this seems to be present for alternate play choices.
That is basically the entire game. I believe that it only took me about four hours to play through my first scenario, and subsequent scenarios can probably be completed in a much shorter time if I'm just trying to evolve humans. The game is very easy once you actually get a grasp of it's mechanics, but other than it being a satisfying simulation game because it is so easy to accomplish your goals, most of the audience for this game will find its enjoyment not in completing the scenario, but by playing in the free mode to experiment with different methods for seeding, destroying, creating, and enabling life to flourish. The game has a capture mechanic for when you find new species, and I see a lot of people working through the free play mode to try to evolve every single species to be found in the game.
The free play mode and challenge of evolving all species isn't the only depth brought to the game, however. You can also choose to play through different types of terrain that are of various difficulties do to their size, terrain makeup, and starting temperatures and humidity levels. If you are really into the game play, there are plenty of options for you to extend that experience. It is obviously a simulation game, and as such I need to point out to those curious that there will not be any intense moments that make you excited or get your heart racing. The joy and fun, if you get into it, will come from watching your carefully laid plans play out as you had intended to achieve your intended goal.
My 12 year old daughter, whom is a huge fan of Minecraft, found the game on the Nintendo Switch and immediately jumped into the free mode. She absolutely loves playing the game, and has been ignoring Minecraft since she discovered it. While I don't expect that to last for a long time, the power of the game to draw her away from Minecraft is pretty impressive.
Happy Birthdays is a very unique game. It is brought to us by the creator of the Harvest Moon series, Mr. Yasuhiro Wada, and he makes the resource management simulator style game a lot more accessible by filling the world with bright and colorful character models, and easy to master controls and mechanics with a broad range of applications to easily achieve your goals. If you've ever played a Sim- anything game and thought that they were too difficult to accomplish without cheating, than the difficulty level for Happy Birthdays will be a lot more suitable. Even if you enjoy more of a challenge, you can make that for yourself here. It is seldom that a game comes along that can be just as satisfying for casual players new to the genre, but also offer a hidden level of depth for a more experienced genre veteran. I'd recommend it if you're looking for something relatively unique.
Happy Birthdays on eShop
*Review copy provided for free by NIS America, Inc. *