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Game Info:

Happy Birthdays
Developed by: Arc Systemworks, Toybox Inc.
Published by: NIS America
Release date: June 5, 2018
Available on: PS4, Switch, Windows
Genre: Sandbox
Number of players: Single-player
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Price: $39.99
(Amazon Affiliate Link)

Thank you NIS America for sending us this game to review!

We originally reviewed Birthdays the Beginning on the PS4 and found it to be a flawed, but fun experience. The rebranded Switch version comes bundled with DLC, more creatures, and some gameplay enhancements. Though there is still a lot of micromanagement and waiting, there is less guess work and the gameplay is a bit more streamlined.

Happy Birthdays is a 3D sandbox game where you can play through the campaign, challenges, or in free play mode and build up your world from phytoplankton all the way up to humans. The process of evolution requires time, temperature, and proper locations to give birth to new species. God’s way of speaking creatures into existence is much easier by a long shot!

The story remains the same with the main character secretly reading through his/her grandfather’s books. In one of the books is a map of a nearby forest with an “X” marked on it. What kid wouldn’t want to investigate this further? Sure enough, the map leads to a bright light which renders the main character unconscious. Upon waking up, they meet the computer-like Navi who holds them captive until they can create another world capable of sustaining human life.

Happy Birthdays
Highlights:

Strong Points: Educational and fun sandbox game that encourages you to create and sustain life
Weak Points: Keeping various species alive requires a lot of micromanagement
Moral Warnings: Evolution is heavily emphasized in this game; references to aliens

A new feature in Happy Birthdays is the ability to choose your starting terrain. For a simpler game you can use the green plains or enjoy the freedom that the stony prairie has to offer. Those looking for a more challenging experience may want to try the scorched Earth/dessert or the frozen world.

Navi teaches the basic controls about raising and lowering the terrain and adding water to adjust the temperature. Changing the terrain consumes health, which can be replenished by switching to the macro view and letting time elapse slowly. Speeding up time is possible, but it too consumes health. When you level up, you’ll get more health points which lets you do more between macro view visits. Thankfully, as more and more creatures are birthed into existence, star fragments will become available and you can use them to activate powerful skills that impact the terrain, temperature or let you construct impressive monuments.

In order to progress through the story you have to meet certain conditions, which is hard to do if you kill off a species unintentionally. I like how you can press the right stick to find out what the next evolutionary goal is to succeed in your mission. This is so much better than aimlessly passing time while wondering what crucial species you either killed off or never spawned in the first place. Saving often is highly recommended!

Seeds are shortcuts that allow you to evolve or mutate creatures without meeting the requirements at the moment. If you’re not careful, the newly created species will die off as quickly as it appeared. There are other helpful seeds that allow you to create rivers, moist areas, dry areas, snow, global warming, and so forth. Without the proper terrain, both plants and animals cannot thrive.

Happy Birthdays
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 84%
Gameplay - 16/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 94%
Violence - 10/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

In the macro view as time is elapsing you’ll see a breakdown of the life forms on your world. You’ll see green arrows for thriving and red arrows for population declines. Sometimes a species will re-appear after becoming extinct, but that’s not always the case. You’ll also be notified when a new species is birthed. To celebrate the occasion, you should switch to the micro view and check them out. To learn more about the species, this game encourages you to scan them. Stars are earned for each newly scanned species. Every one million years is celebrated and star points are awarded after the announcement.

If you don’t like the restrictions of the story mode, you can do whatever you want in the free play mode. In this mode you can choose the size of your world and grow whatever lifeforms you see fit. There are no goals, time limits, or objectives to complete. If you’re a goal-oriented person, you may enjoy the various dinosaur challenges available.

If you don’t mind the theory of evolution being taught, there is a lot to learn in Happy Birthdays. Kids who like biology or dinosaurs will enjoy this game. Mating or killing is not shown so this title is as kid safe as they come.

The overall presentation is cute and this game performs well on the Switch. The controls may be a bit confusing for younger gamers, but I had no trouble moving about in this title.

In the end, my son and I enjoyed playing Happy Birthdays on our own terms. The story mode requires a lot of micromanagement which may bore some younger gamers. The portability and improvements made in the Switch version make this game the best version available.

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About Us:

Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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