When looking at the large catalog of indie games on Steam, you tend to find that some settle down in camps that are in the public zeitgeist. That can be said that most indie games nowadays depend on a survival element or have a rich and engaging story attached to them. That or they can risk it all and try something that hasn’t been done before or join a small niche of similar types of games. That is a good enough segway, as you can get with the recent release of Birth on Steam.
Birth is a game in the vein of Florence and Unpacking. Meaning the gameplay can be best described as dragging your mouse pointer across the screen and interacting with the world given in front of you. The game is quite short, given the level of gameplay put on display here, clocking in at under an hour for me anyways. But I feel like the length isn’t the main focus of the game or the subtle story.
I think that lies in the art style, which does the rare thing of being both warm and wholesome, and also distrusting and creepy; with that said, the tone is a bit mixed. You play as a silent create your own character, which is designed like the remains of bones that you used to find when digging through owl pellets back in science class. The design actually helps set up this melancholy tone that the game tries to establish early on. But as for the general goal of the game, you are trying to collect enough bones and organs to create a partner for yourself. Think of it more like a disturbing yet cute version of Weird Science, just not as filled with dated, uncomfortable humor as the latter.
The gameplay itself is mostly going into areas around your block and completing more and more complex puzzles to see what body part you can collect for them. Sometimes it can be as simple as filling a water jar with rocks or playing with dominoes. But as you get near the end, they can get complex with no hesitation, involving you switching back between different objects to figure out the pattern of a lock, then going back to a one-time click to see a different pattern. This difficulty spike can be viewed as part of the charm that comes with the puzzle game genre, but this had its spike out of nowhere, in my opinion. It didn’t help that during my short time in this world, the game did soft lock my progress several times, causing me to leave and re-enter the room to reset my progress, it was annoying at the moment, but I never viewed it as a deal breaker.
Though in the end, I feel like this is a good game that would be pushed to a great one if one day it was ported to Apple Arcade. I say that because of how the game and puzzle design are set up; I feel like they were tailor-made for touch controls. I can also confirm this because I did at least one level on my Steam Deck, and it felt much more natural than dragging my mouse cursor all over the place. But I can highly recommend this one if you are in the mood for a quick distraction that sucks you in quickly with its use of charm and worldbuilding. Though go in expecting a short experience because if you don’t, that might harp the ending for you, as it did for me initially.
Score: 7 out of 10
Reviewed on PC & Steam Deck