Parents' Guide to

Birthdays the Beginning

By David Chapman, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Entertaining, simplified sim looks at the evolution of life.

Game PlayStation 4 , Windows 2017
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What if there had never been a prehistoric impact to cause the dramatic global climate changes that wiped out the dinosaurs? Could humans have ended up sharing the planet with them? Or, what if the temperature had been off by only a handful of degrees in either direction? Would there even be humans around to notice? These are hypothetical questions, but they're also the interesting premise behind the new life/world simulator Birthdays the Beginning. As the game opens up, you're given a blank, cubic chunk of Earth to carve out however you see fit in two very simple directions: up or down. You want mountains? Raise the elevation to Everest heights. Need a beachfront property? Carve out a deep blue ocean. While raising and lowering the Earth on a whim might seem pointless and boring, it's anything but. Every minor change you make has a massive impact on the overall ecology, altering things like the average global temperature and moisture levels. It's those fluctuations that directly affect whatever life might be thriving on your burgeoning world. And that's what makes the game so fascinating.

You're basically in control of a virtual petri dish. You can toss in some variables in the way of unique "power-ups," but you're basically trying to nudge things in just the right direction for life to thrive and adapt. Through trial and error, experimentation, and observation, you can't help but learn how difficult it can be for our planet to run like a well-oiled machine. There's a surprising amount of micromanagement, as you'll need to maintain things over eons of game time. It can get a bit overwhelming trying to keep track of all the stats, requirements, populations, and so on. Thankfully, the game has an ever-present assistant, ready to lend a tip or two. Every moment of hard work is worth it when you see your little world start teeming with all manner of flora and fauna. The game features more than 300 types of plants and animals to discover and collect, many of which have never shared the same space in history before. It doesn't hurt that the game's cute presentation makes it absolutely adorable to see a wolf and a triceratops mingling. Birthdays the Beginning teaches a valuable lesson about how the world works and how fragile it can be, but it does so in a way that's entertaining, enjoyable, and simply hard to step away from.

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