Have you ever wondered what it would be like to birth dinosaurs? Dogs? Cats? Ancient fish? Well in Birthdays the Beginning you’ll be able to do all that and more as you take control of your own ecosystem cube.
Birthdays the Beginning is a sandbox type game in which you’re in control. Raise or lower the land as you see fit, and watch as a large variety of species are born, thrive, or die in the world you create. You’ll have to watch how you handle things though, as any major – and some minor – changes can easily cause a species to go extinct!
When you first start off, you’ll be given a small cube. WIth this cube, you’ll need to birth the first organisms to live on earth. From this, you’ll evolve forward towards more and more until they finally make their way onto land. From these land creatures, you’ll gradually work your way towards larger cubes, dinosaurs, and humans. Your cube will undergo dramatic changes to make all of this happen and it’s entirely in your hands.
The controls for Birthdays the Beginning are both simple and annoying. Playing on the PS4 version, the basic controls are constantly laid out for you – R1/R2 let you change the land, X opens the item menu, the D-Pad will scroll through items OR change how large of an area you’re selecting, L2 will let you zoom around the cube, Square lets you use items, and Triangle will let you change modes OR set an item as a favourite. Now, as I said, these do get annoying. I was constantly messing up which R button would go which direction, and the amount of times I would be in the item menu, press Triangle, and accidentally overwrite one of my favourite items got to be a bit much.
There is one other control and that’s the option to go into a first person mode and wander around your cube. I almost never used this as it simply just made me feel disorientated, and I would quickly leave it. There were also some issues with moving around too fast and if you were trying to get up a steep mountain you’d often end up inside of it.
Once you’ve birthed your species, you’ll have the ability to “Capture” it. What this means is that you’ll have to go into the cube, hunt it down amongst everything there, and then press the touchpad when your avatar is above it. Now, this is a simple enough task when you have a small cube without many species in it, but beyond that you’re just in for a lot of pain. Often times I would just give up hunting for said species until they had really flourished, and even then I’d sometimes not find them. Any sort of small plant is a pain to find as the game adds in a bunch of OTHER little plants that you can’t interact with at all. In the water, unless you either get lucky or they’re in a cluster, many fish will go unseen. The minimap BARELY helps you find these, but once you really get going it’s going to look so cluttered you can almost never see anything on it anyways.
As your cube progresses, items will appear depending on the conditions within the cube. These items will appear as bright, shiny objects on the field, and yellow dots on the minimap. Now, keep in mind that – at least for me – these yellow dots looked very similar to the dot indicating there is an uncaptured species there. Not to mention that it seems like each time your cube expands, it keeps the yellow dots of the last cube size, so you end up with a bunch of useless dots littering the map. As far as the items go, each item will have its use. Water of Life is extremely handy if you wish to fast track a species for a bit – however, if the conditions on the cube aren’t right for them, they’ll quickly fall back to where they were. You’ll also have to watch out for the Water of Extinction, an item that is placed right next to the Water of Life in the list, and take care that you only use it when you really need to. There are other items available, such as mountain makers, valley makers, items to even out a select area of land, river makers, and even an item to force the evolution of a species!
The biggest reason capturing species is so important is that it adds their full bio to your compendium. This compendium is basically your guide as to how to get everything there is. Unfortunately, there are hidden requirements for each species, and discovering these can cause real headaches. I still don’t know how I actually got certain species to be born other than just messing around until something worked. I would have all the requirements listed, but I guess I was always just missing some land or water requirement that you can’t see.
The graphics for the game are bright and colourful, although I definitely know a few people who would take issue with how the dinosaurs are represented. It can get to be difficult to find things in the water as I said, so I do feel like they could’ve done a bit of a better job making this easier. The same goes with the plants, as the extra “useless” plants just add clutter and make it harder to spot anything. The music is nothing to write home about, and after a while I found myself just muting the game and running my own music instead. Perhaps I was doing something wrong, but based off what I played, you’ll also quickly get tired of hearing the “This species is going extinct!” warning noise over and over again.
Birthdays the Beginning is a fun little time killer that’s easy to pick up and play for an hour or two each day. Beyond the main “story” mode there are also challenges involving the dinosaurs, as well as a free play mode that will truly let you do whatever you want once you beat the main story. At this point I’ve only done a few of the challenges, but they weren’t that difficult, although you do need to watch out for the restrictions or effects in place as you go about your work. The compendium is useful, but you’ll also run into a lot of headaches trying to actually figure out how to get certain species to be born.
Would I recommend Birthdays the Beginning? If you’re looking for a time killer and don’t mind some of the headaches attached, then sure. I did enjoy my time with it – often telling myself “just 10 more minutes” which would always turn into another hour. The music does get extremely old though, so be prepared to run some background noise if you want to really delve into it.
Birthdays the Beginning Review Score
This review was based off of pre-release code and has been patched post-release. The patch addressed many of the complaints listed here, and as such I would like to update the score as follows:
Birthdays the Beginning Updated Review Score:
A copy of the game for PS4 was provided to us by the publisher.