Happy Birthdays Review (Switch)on June 12, 2018 by Reuben Mount
Happy Birthdays is the strange brainchild of Yasuhiro Wada, the creator of Harvest Moon, and is a sandbox game revolving around the core concepts of environment and evolution. With a cheery artstyle, and all of the charm that you find in Yasuhiro Wada’s previous big project. But how is this little curio to play now it has come to Switch?
Given the type of game this is, the idea of a story kind of takes a backseat. But I will say that, beginning out, the player is only given a short cutscene and a single goal: to make life thrive in their world. Upon starting a new game, you’re given the choice of four worlds, which range from the beginner-friendly Green Plains to the harsh lands of Frozen World. All four of the starting worlds have their individual merits and pitfalls, and all can sustain life; it’s just a matter of deciding how much work you want to put in to make that happen.
The gameplay of Happy Birthdays is relatively simple in theory; as your avatar, you transport between Micro Mode and Macro Mode in your quest to create an environment within your little cube that can support life and see it thrive. In Macro Mode, the player can observe the cube from a distance through an isometric view and all of the facts and figures about it including its temperature, how much of the cube has life, and also the percentage of land or water within the cube.
Also, in this menu, the player can check the ‘Life News’ to check for new species that might have evolved and to check the spread of other life throughout your little world. You can use these various menus to track various aspects of the gameplay, such as population over time; as well as to check the pre-requisites of a handful of upcoming creatures. This will tell you the temperature and percentage balancing, as well as any other prior links in their evolutionary change you already need to have present in your cube to bring about the new creatures and forms of life.
These menus will be your best friends throughout your time with Happy Birthdays, if you can take in just how much information they have on them, and should be your first port of call after every change you make in your cube, no matter how minute. The key feature of Macro Mode, however, is that the player can fast forward time at two different speeds to see the effects of the changes they have made in the world whether that be with the temperature, lifeforms, or land/water balance.
How you make all of these changes is by switching to Micro Mode, which places your avatar inside the world to manipulate the terrain to engineer the evolution paths in the world via raising and lowering the temperature of the world. This means that by raising the terrain, or increasing the amount of water in your cube, you can raise the temperature or vice versa. Manipulating the terrain in such a way will also affect the temperature of any seas in the world, affecting any and all life there too.
As a huge plus for the game, the visuals are absolutely beautiful. The bright and cartoony art style perfectly compliments the mostly isometric viewpoint that oversees the majority of the gameplay. All of the creatures in the game are adorable with well thought out patterns of behaviour and diverse and imaginative evolutionary strands that depend on the player’s actions within the game world.
All of the menus, although cluttered with facts and figures, follow the same bright and colourful aesthetic of the rest of the game. The music toes the line in this regard too, focusing on simple music that allows itself to fall by the wayside and be forgotten. Usually I would take umbrage with the music making no impact on me, but with a game like this where the player is required to focus so much on the minutiae and the little numbers in menus, I very much welcome the lack of an invasive soundtrack.
So, should you play Happy Birthdays? I would personally say to avoid, but I definitely lack the patience required for a game like this. The truth is that evolution is slow, and this game really makes you feel every minute of that process, even in fast forward mode. Also, the sheer amount of menus and such can be incredibly overwhelming, despite the incredible tutorial systems in the game. I see what the idea was with this title, I see what they were aiming for, but it just misses the mark and the result is a slow, messy-feeling title.
Happy Birthdays is out now on Nintendo Switch. Thank you to NIS America For kindly supplying the review code for this game.