I was recently reminded of this game when my dad and I were talking about Spore because one of the kids was playing it. This, of course, led to a conversation about various evolution theories…

In the blink of an eye, something happens by chance – when you least expect it – sets you on a course that you never planned on, into a future you never imagined.

Nicholas Sparks

So, this sandbox game has been released in 2017 under two different names: Happy Birthdays on the Nintendo Switch, and Birthdays the Beginning on the PS4 and PC (via Steam). They are all the same game, the only difference is the platform it’s being played on. The creator is Yasuhiro Wada, known for his work on Story of Season (aka Harvest Moon) and Little Dragons Cafe.

click for website
click for website

But what is it?

The premise of the game is you find one of your grandfather’s books and inside is a magic map to an uncharted planet. You are transported to said new land and have been promoted from a child into a deity where you get to terraform your land.

Add water, determine how deep or shallow you want it. Add hills and mountains, the possibilities are endless. However, what you do to your land directly affects what species are able to live. If not enough food sources are available, species can die. Temperature changes will alter what type of land it is (snowy, tropical, desert, etc), and ultimately determine what species are available to you. You will also affect evolution with your changes. Species already present may change to adapt, while you can end up with totally new species.

using the capture tool

There are several different playable elements to the game. There are the standard and timed missions you can complete, hidden achievements, and completing your evolution chart. When a new organism shows up, you “take a picture” in game and it is automatically studied and is added to your data.

part of the evolutionary tree

The most common complaints I hear about the game are the graphics. The game was designed using clay figures so you can turn the camera at any angle and your animals and plants will still maintain their shape integrity. Unlike many sim games, you are in control of the camera, rather than having a static view. You essentially have an active 3D model of a diorama.

Please note, this game is not considered an educational game. That being said, it does contain basic elements in regards to evolution, ecosystems, habitats, and is a nice intro for learning how to identify organisms (via their data cards, which are mostly comparable to organisms of the same species not in game.) It is possible for extinct animals to reappear once the ecosystem fits their needs, which can be amusing if you have humans on your planet.

Pros:Cons:
The tutorial walks you through everythingThe tutorial is not skippable
The evolutionary tree gives tips on how to evolve new organismsSometimes you have to wait billions of years for that new evolution to trigger (most often it is due to a lacking population of a food source)
Excellent music, very relaxing (link is to entire soundtrack)… that you can listen to while waiting for things to evolve
You can see changes happening real timeWhich may not work for a child with attention span issues
The game gets more challenging to balance the ecosystems as organisms advance (critical thinking and problem solving)Some children may need help
There are “rare” species to find, thus making the game challenging and ongoing once the missions are already beatCurrently there are only 10 missions, but they take a long time to complete each one. Don’t worry about someone beating this game within a couple of hours…
The game has a story line behind it, unlike most sandbox gamesBut the story line isn’t the heavy part of the game and you will often even forget the story as you play.
DLC’s for placing objects in your world (and possibly more missions) are planned for release.

PS4 has 9 cosmetic DLC’s available, where as PC has one so far.

Currently, if you beat the entire game and fill out the evolutionary tree, there is little replay value. At least as an adult, the kids haven’t filled out the tree yet.

This is the original trailer

In closing

It’s a cute game worth looking into, especially if you are trying to get your child interested in science or they already are. You are rewarded for your critical thinking and hard work vs many instant reward games you see on smart devices.

Currently prices vary for digital downloads, $40 on PS4, $40 on Nintendo Switch, and $20 on Steam. Physical copies for PS4 can be harder to come by, but used ones are usually under $20, where as used games for the Nintendo Switch are often more expensive than the digital download. (If you do find one cheap, it’s often not in English, so be alert).

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