Happy Birthdays is back! Birthdays the Beginning has appeared on the Nintendo Switch after an initial debut on the PlayStation 4 and PC. But the new name is not the only thing that has changed. This is more a director’s cut of an existing game than any port. A lot is different. It is not just about some new creatures and plants. Whole game elements have been completely altered to make this a more desirable experience.
The entire opening of Happy Birthdays has changed. The introduction is revitalized and proceeds in a way where it can be easier for newcomers, more challenging for people who already are experienced when it comes to cube maintenance and does a better job of introducing concepts without an extended tutorial. You can start with a totally blank slate like Birthdays the Beginning offered. It shows up here as Stony Prairie. But you can also go with Green Plains, which has an array of plants and animals all ready to go. Scorched Earth is a desert that only has a few animals and plants, as well as less initial terraforming. It is slightly harder, but gives a bit of a better start than Stony Prairie. Then, if someone really wants a challenge, they can choose the Frozen World, a place with some vegetation and life, but a temperature you need to really work with and adjust. After trying all four, I felt like Stony Prairie was probably the most difficult, as the other three all already give you a start toward creating certain sorts of biomes.
Development is also so much easier to understand, thanks to a new skill system. As your cube flourishes and you capture new animals, you earn Star Points. When you head into the Skills menu, you can use these as long as you have enough points and are in the right place. If you start at Stony Prairie or with an empty cube, you can use a Primordial Drop for free to kick off life. If you go with a cube that already has some life, you can encourage or discourage it with a few points. Water of Life is extraordinarily cheap now, only 500 points, and can be liberally applied to animals, plantlife and ocean creatures. If you are in the right spot in a grassy area, you can spend just 300 points to have Vigorous Vegetation stir up plant growth. Killing off a species is 10,000 points. You can even more easily get different color variations with Rainbow Coating. It all made me feel like I had more direct control, rather than just terraforming as I did in Birthdays the Beginning.
Aside from the game being more welcoming, I also noticed how great Hapy Birthdays looked and ran on the system. When I hopped into my Cube for the first time, it looked exactly as it did on the PlayStation 4. In fact, I actually preferred it. Birthdays the Beginning was one of those games I had to play in my living room about five inches from the TV. I was not the biggest fan of the font size, especially when there are so many details to keep track of as you manage your world. Handheld mode on the Nintendo Switch is the perfect way to address it. I found it much easier to read and keep track of every possible thing. It was wonderful.
Frankly, it also felt like Happy Birthdays was more enjoyable and manageable as a portable game even when not considering the updates. When I played it on the PlayStation 4, I sometimes was frustrated by the pacing. In Handheld Mode, I found I could play it for fifteen minutes, doing some terraforming, using skills to plant seeds of life and capturing new species. Once I performed my checkup, I could put the system on the side and let it run while I played a book, had a movie play or engaged in some other activity. When I had the option to let time progress on its own, checking in every once in a while, I found myself better appreciating it. But even then, I also felt like things happened at a faster pace and the requirements for different kinds of life were less complicated.
Happy Birthdays is more than just a port. It is a completely adjusted take on Birthdays the Beginning. You have more choices when you begin, allowing more options and possibly adding more replay value. The skills system allows a bit more direct control. The tutorials felt smoother. Also, it is both easier to read and enjoy, especially in Handheld Mode. I feel like this experience offers more to the player than Birthdays the Beginning did, and I know I definitely enjoy it more the second time around.
Happy Birthdays is coming to the Nintendo Switch in North America on June 5, 2018 and in Europe on June 8, 2018. It is immediately available on the PlayStation 4 and PC as Birthdays the Beginning.