Release Date: 5/7/17
Developer: ToyBox Games
Doctors of Gaming had the exclusive opportunity to play through the latest project of Yasuhiro Wada, respected creator of Harvest Moon, Birthdays The Beginning. At its core, Birthdays, as I’ll call it for short, is a sandbox game of creation. However, whereas traditional simulation games focus on shaping central characters, Birthdays instead calls you to nurture environment itself.
Gameplay centers around looping between 2 main views: micro and macro. In micro mode, you zoom in and manipulate cubes of land with the ultimate goal of birthing new life forms. In macro mode, you are able to take a step back and observe the results of your micro-level manipulations. The essence of the game is switching between these two modes – making a change to the environment, then fast-forwarding through time to see which new species are births.
Visually, the game is very attractive. Raising and lowering terrain is intuitive enough, and in a short time I was able to create mountains and the ocean. Bright, upbeat colors and adorable creatures, both single-celled and multi-cellular alike, please the eye as you cultivate your world.
BTB is a rare gem that seamlessly combines education and entertainment. Overall, I was impressed by the scientific accuracy to which the game held. For example, phytoplankton are the first to appear. I was transported back to Biology 101, remembering that these photosynthesizing microscopic organisms inhabit the upper sunlit layer of just about every ocean and fresh water body on earth. As I went on to adjust environmental conditions to create zooplankton, stromatolites and cyclomedusa, my inner science geek couldn’t help but rejoice.
Admittedly, as I got better at manipulating my environments, and was alerted of more and more new species spontaneously coming into existence (aka more “Birthdays”), the excitement associated with each fresh discovery began to wane. And yet, even then, there remained an odd allure to the game. Indeed, the excitement of fresh discovery seamlessly gave way to the steady satisfaction of seeing my environments thrive and grow increasingly complex with each passing epoch.
In BTB, I was a cosmic gardener – the landscapes I curated were my seeds and the increasingly complex organisms they gave rise to were my prized plants. While one could arguably fulfill a similar fix with other games of the farming sim genre, like Farmville, Hay Day or the new Harvest Moon, Birthdays the Beginning offers a refreshing take on the familiar trope of sow seeds/harvest crops/repeat. And like these farming sim classics, you won’t be able to put Birthdays the Beginning down easily.
Prognosis is Fair