Birthdays the Beginning - PlayStation 4 Review

The world is in your hands.

Game Info

  • System: PlayStation 4, PC
  • Publisher: NIS America
  • Developer: Arc System Works | Toybox Inc.
  • Release Date: Date: May 9, 2017

Birthdays the Beginning - TGS Trailer | PS4

Who it Caters to

Birthdays the Beginning is a pretty unique game in that, while it does have similarities pertaining to Minecraft the concept is entirely fresh. You’re essentially building a world of your own from the ground up, in hopes to create new life and establish a free flowing ecosystem. Learning how to evolve and replenish life is going to be one of your main priorities, and keeping track of just how many species are close to extinction is imperative. Birthdays the Beginning caters to those who enjoy being on the creative side and watching as their own world manifests into something worth treasuring.

What to Expect

There’s a lot to understand in Birthdays the Beginning, and while that may be useful in some cases, it can also become very cumbersome and steal much of your playtime. The opening tutorials are long and descriptive, but most of the time you just want to skip them all and just figure things out for yourself. As we stated earlier there’s going to be a lot of observation required from you, because you’ll need to be keeping track of new life that emerges but also going back to readjust the temperature to ensure that your existing creatures don’t run the risk of dying. While the game may seem like a childish game based on its visuals, Birthdays the Beginning is actually very in depth and articulate in its overall design. The game allows you to make mistakes along the way and test out your own methods, but unfortunately you can’t really progress through the game without completing each episode and following what Navi tells you to do. We’ll dive more into the gameplay aspects later but for now, expect to have a lot of early mishaps.

Gameplay

There really isn’t much of a story in the sense that, you’re not embarking on this wild adventure to save the world from peril. Instead, you’re embarking on a quest to create new life and you’re in charge of it all. The world is in your hands and so now you must use the assistance of Navi to ensure that the evolution process runs smoothly. The game starts you off by Navi showing you just how to construct your world, and how the evolution system works. This section to be honest was quite long and tiresome because, there was just too much information being thrown at you in the beginning and by the time it’s all finished you just want to sleep or do something else. It’s good on the one hand because it does provide you with a great deal of important information that you’ll need later game. However, for a game that promotes creativity and for the player to jump right in, it didn’t really feel that way. When you do try to just jump in and not follow Navi’s tutelage the game doesn’t progress meaning, you’re essentially locked in until a specific birthday has been created.

A birthday in the game just refers to the creation of life and so, whenever a new species is born, Navi congratulates you. It’s understandable that taking baby steps is essential in fully grasping the game, but it started to feel more rigid as we continued to play through the game. Navi would always instruct you on how to create certain creatures, often times you are the one to go into the library to look up the said creature. Once you’ve figured out the requirements to bring that creature to life the game becomes a little bit more interesting since you can edit and alter your cube to ensure a healthy evolution. You first start off with a relatively small cube that will grow over time the longer you invest into the game, and it certainly feels gratifying seeing your world evolve in front of you. Small plants start to pop up from out the ground and tiny fish start to emerge within the watery depths. Seeing that all happen in your ‘Life News’ feed is really satisfying because it really makes you feel in total control. Certain items can help to speed up the evolution process such as the Seed of Evolution, or if you wanted to create a unique form of life you could use the Seed of Mutation to see what type of creature or plant would emerge from a previous species. All of this is wonderful but let us go back to the part where we mentioned that you can’t progress without following Navi’s instructions.

This is where the game gets somewhat annoying because, most of the time you simply just want to fiddle around with everything and explore on your own free will. Sadly, you’re forced to go through each tutorial and must create whatever creature Navi tells you to. If you screw up in the process there’s no reset button to take you back to the beginning, unless of course you saved at a certain point in the game. However there was a time where the game required that we have a creature called a Cyclomedusa in order to create a new creature called Pikaia. The requirements weren’t hard to comprehend but there were moments when our Cyclomedusa went extinct and we couldn’t move ahead in the story until we were able to revive it. This took so long because we then had to make sure another creature was still growing, and edit our terrain so that the Cyclomedusa could spawn again. The game should just let you do whatever you please and if you feel the urge to spawn a new species you can do so at your own free will. Having to follow Navi’s instructions every time made the game feel more like a walkthrough than a game that promotes heavy engagement and freedom.

Even when we followed instructions the game would sometimes not even create what was needed, and so we were left scratching our heads wondering why that creature hasn’t turned up yet. You can speed up time to gather more items from creatures and plants that died and use those said items to create new life. There are also other items that allow you to manipulate the soil moisture in certain areas, lower the temperature dramatically, and also special leaves that you can use to restore your HP. Basically as you speed up time or create new patches of land and water, your HP depletes and when your HP bar is completely empty you can’t create anything else. So always paying close attention to your avatar is important, but as we said before keeping an eye on your life news is more imperative. You level up throughout the game by “capturing” new creatures that have spawned in your world, and to do so you need to highlight the creature that’s usually marked with a pink icon on your mini map. This can be very fun at times but also very irritating because highlighting certain creatures can be a chore and prove difficult since the camera doesn’t always want to cooperate. Often times the camera will just go through the entire map if you aren’t careful and just pinpointing certain creatures to capture just proved even more annoying, especially the tiny ones. After a while the fun of creating your own little ecosystem starts to feel more cumbersome and you just want to stop and move on. A part of you wants to keep going to see just what will happen next, but then you remember Navi shoving all of this information down your throat and you suddenly get turned off. The game obviously is meant to be played slowly with your rewards gradually given to you over time, but over that time you slowly want to move away from it all because in some way it feels basic.
There’s also another big gripe that we had and it’s that the game doesn’t allow you to create a new world. When you want to start a new game you literally have to sit through all of Navi’s chatter and go through every aspect of the tutorial which was a total let down. Limitations like that only drove us away even further because, let’s say you messed up big time on your current world and just want to start fresh? You can do that but, why do we need to go through the same tutorial again when we clearly understand the game? It just felt so primitive which is ironic because that’s just how the entire game starts to feel like as you dive deeper. You get so turned off that the challenge mode that’s available in the game isn’t even worth toying around with, because you’re so frustrated by the fact that you can’t even start anew. The game provides this illusion of freedom to the player, emphasizing that you can do whatever you want but you first need to follow our orders. That wasn’t very endearing at all and while we honestly loved the concept coming into the game, in the end we just wanted to leave our world behind and come back to reality.

Honey's Gameplay Consensus:

In the end, Birthdays the Beginning has its perks. It’s a game that can educate you on various aspects pertaining to geography, weather patterns and the state of evolution. However the game is marred with rigid camera motions, an overly detailed tutorial that’s just shoved down your throat, and no ways of expansion other than what’s in front of you. We would’ve liked to see more options available to allow for more versatility, so perhaps if they make a sequel it could be something to consider. There’s also no music to keep you engaged which also felt like a drag, since having a nice ambience to go along with all the work you have to do would’ve made the experience more exciting. It would’ve been nice if the game asked you whether you want to skip the tutorial the second time around, to avoid the repetitiveness.

Honey's Pros:

  • Simple UI makes it easy to navigate around and find what you’re looking for.
  • Unique artstyle.

Honey's Cons:

  • Poor camera controls.
  • Limited options make the game feel restricted more than open.
  • Forced to sit through the tutorial and having to follow Navi’s orders every time.
  • Can’t start a new game without having to sit through the long chit chat all over again.

Honey's Final Verdict:

Birthdays the Beginning is certainly not going to be for everyone, and in our case it was very hit and miss. Part of us wants to continue because we want to see our world evolve right before our eyes, but then we remember Navi and we immediately want to run away. It’s not that Navi is scary, it’s just that we don’t want to hear repeated statements and would much rather just dive in and learn from trial and error. With the game launching very soon there’s plenty of time to think through your decision as to whether you should purchase this or not. We’ll leave that up to you, but we hope you found the review useful. Keep up with the Honey’s community through social media, and be sure to leave a comment below to let us know what you think!

As always, for all things sweet, with news straight from Japan, be sure to keep it locked here on Honey’s Anime.

Rob

Editor/Writer

Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.

100% Vegan. A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and join me on Discord! Take care!

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