Happy Birthdays (Switch) Review
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Developer/Publisher: Arc System Works Co. Ltd/TOYBOX Inc/NIS America
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Read previous review here
In my review of the original, I had a few frustrations regarding said interface, and I feel that there have been plenty of changes that help general quality of life in play. Given the subtlety of the changes, it is hard to point them out without seeing the game side-by-side with the original, but they are there. From being able to actively research the library and evolution chart while actively on the map to having more choice about how the game officially begins (easy mode starts with some species already in existence and a bit more forgiving scale, versus hard mode starting as a flat block without even a blade of grass), Happy Birthdays makes it a bit easier to get where you need to go. Some of the changes are so subtle I'm not even sure if they are changes or just easier ways to access what was already there, like being able to see the new evolutionary steps on the radar without having to go into first-person mode. They also added a "stars" mode, where certain interactions gain stars that let you drastically change your environment in one swoop. This is not a sequel, but it's enough of a change to call it a "deluxe edition," like how I hated Metal Gear Solid 3, but the camera change with Subsistence was enough to make me seriously enjoy the game.
The bonuses are layered on top of the original game, and I found that to be a little odd at first though. For example, once the tutorial is over, you're dropped into the "ladder" of evolution. I had to go to the help tutorial option just to figure out my next step. However, steps are easier to follow, as having the library open while playing allows you to keep your tips open mid game is a lot more user friendly than the back and forth you had to do previously. I still found frustration with the general evolution mechanic, where mismanagement leading to losing an evolutionary step makes you have to rewind back to where it's almost easier to start over. The Switch is the ideal place to play, with the ability to use the touchscreen controls that originated with the PC edition.
Happy Birthdays is the same gameplay as the original, so you still get all the good and bad. It's a hair complicated, but it's very satisfying to finally hit the right combination to get the next step in evolution. With the open Sims-style gameplay, you aren't really aiming for an end goal, unless you count finally reaching humanity, so you aren't going to see a lot of story depth. It's a strange combination of complexity and simplicity, as it really boils down to raising and lowering temperatures to achieve evolutionary goals, but someone who enjoys solving puzzles or doing management will really get a kick out of it. Most of these upgrades could easily be integrated into the previous title via an update, but with the added portability and touchscreen options, the Switch edition is the best way to enjoy this title.
-Deep gameplay that feels good to master
-Amazingly cute graphics feel like claymation
-Satisfaction received from when you get it right
-New UI and difficulty options make it easier to jump into
-Every achievement is just another rung in a ladder going nowhere
-LOTS of waiting
-If something goes extinct that's not supposed to, it's a long way back and you're on your own
-UI still could use some tweaks, as the in-game live menus still take some management to understand
Thanks to NIS America for providing a copy for review!