Midnight at the Oasis.
Coming from a series of “Midnight” titles that started on the Wii U and have since transitioned to Switch, Birthday of Midnight is a physics-based puzzle game that sticks rigidly to the 3-star completion format of its predecessors (as well as the recent Shawn the Sheep title I also reviewed for Switch).
I would give you a blurb breakdown of the narrative this time around, but by discussing why I’m not going to is actually a longer sentence. Even the game’s official blurb doesn’t go into why it’s a (clearly socially distanced) birthday. Instead focusing on “another round” of “golf-like fun”. Which makes the game sound far more upbeat and fun than the setting actually is.
The golf-like format is simple, get from start to finish in as few moves as possible. In an Angry Birds style control scheme, you fling Midnight through the level using a pull-back arrow system were the further back you pull, the further you fly forward. This is a very easy and common control scheme now throughout touch screen mobile style games, and adapts to the analogue stick of a Switch pretty well. Where there is frustration from controls however, sadly comes from the level design alongside it.
Closer to the Edge.
Where edges of the level aren’t bordered off by walls of the world you dwell, you can fly off the screen and lose by default. Move your control stick just a millimetre too far one way, and off the screen you go Smash Bros style having to retry the whole level again. An occurrence that can happen in the level designs of this game far too often. If these areas had walls in place, and the puzzle was concentrated on the number of moves you make, I feel the game would become less frustrating.
Speaking of level design, the most disappointing thing about Birthday of Midnight is any lack of real progression the team have made since their Wii U titles visually. When comparing them side by side, other than the obvious resolution differences the consoles provide, the only substantial difference between the two eras of game are the number of reeds attached to the edges of platforms. With the way the Switch can handle particle effects, wind, and textures in more complex ways, the team could have come up with something that felt like a true evolution and closer to what we have seen visually from games like Ori, rather than World of Goo…
The positives are still here, of course, not everything is doom and gloom. The difficulty curve is pleasing and brings challenges where needed. The piano score is gentle and relaxing. And the drawing style of opening animations and sprites in the game is very cute. But for a series now four games in, and half a decade of improvements potentially made, this sequel just cries of same old same old.
Birthday of Midnight is not a terribly bad game, it just doesn’t do anything we haven’t already seen before. Not just from the genre it lives in, but from its own predecessors so far. The team need to look at how they could push this series further next time in my personal opinion. Whether it be puzzle elements, visual styles, or straying at last from the archaic three-star format it is still stuck in from the Candy Crush era (at least Candy Crush has a world map separating puzzles compared to this series actually). If these things were worked on and brought up to date (perhaps in the same “golf-like” style in games such as What the Golf?, which has moved the genre forward leaps and bounds… literally), you could possibly have a runaway Nindie success that worked its way up the charts. Until then I’m afraid, this is no different from any other Midnight prior to it…
Review code provided
Platform: PC, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo
Release Date: 02/10/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: Puzzle, Action
Developer: Petite Games
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Download link: US eShop / UK eShop