Happy Birthday Mart
DSiWare | Pixel Federation | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | 500 Nintendo Points
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29th July 2010; By KnucklesSonic8
Upon creation of your personal profile, you'll be able to choose from a limited selection of animal characters to assign one as your in-game character. So you can determine your animal from the others, you can equip him or her with a pink or blue cap. Then you'll be all set to start your own business! You'll progress by going through periods of days that last a couple minutes out in the real world. The game will start off slow but gradually pick up, making things a bit more interesting as your store gets more and more popular. Think you're up to the task?
To move your little store manager around the place, you simply tap a spot on the floor using your stylus. To adjust your view of the shop, use the D-Pad to scroll the above camera to a different area. It's a shame there's no option to zoom out and see everything all at once, but you get used to it. When a customer comes inside, you'll hear the jingles of a door chime, signifying their arrival. Where do you go from here? Keep an eye on your customers and be ready to provide assistance when they need it.
Your store has a variety of displays placed in different areas around the large space. Everything from cheese, meat and frozen fish to bones and toys. When the display has run out of items, head to the shelf with all the boxes on it, and drag your stylus from here to the stand to re-stock. While most of the animals have a brain to think for themselves, some won't know where something is, even when what they're looking for is right behind them. Simply escort them to the proper area by dragging them over to the display they're looking for.
Some of the customers you'll entertain in your store have rather poor manners. For example, some will litter and leave scraps of wrapping paper on the floor without giving it a second thought. You'll need to drag these pieces of paper over to the waste bin. Other animals are more mischievous in nature, such as the cow who passes out, and makes everyone else fall asleep with him. Be observant and tap them on the head before he disrupts the other customers. Apparently, their mothers didn't emphasize the importance of cleaning up after themselves.
Occasionally, you'll be called over to give your customers a hand as they go about their business. Anytime someone has a star icon above their head, tap it and you'll walk over to begin a quick mini-game. There are over 10 mini-games in total that will have you dragging items from a basket to a cart, placing cogs in their correct spot, or playing Simon Says with picture icons. All of the activities are simple and many feel almost like they were made using WarioWare D.I.Y., but with a slightly more advanced editor. Some of them can get really annoying after having played them repeatedly, but it's nice that all of them start off easy but slowly introduce more variables and a faster timer to work with. Most of them correlated to actual gameplay (e.g., making a customer an ice cream cone) and at the very least, they helped mix things up a bit.
When your customers are ready to vacate the premises, they'll either head straight out the door or make their way over to the cash register to pay for their items. The game assumes you have a lot of trust in your customers, after all, they get to cash out using an unsupervised self-checkout. Randomness aside, as purchases go through, the meters on the top screen will go up. You'll have a sampling of customers to focus on at a given time, with your goal being to please them enough to complete each bar. You can certainly speed up the process a bit by giving your customers free gifts for their loyalty. You'll need to get to know your animal friends well before you give them something they don't want. And rather than hiding their lack of appreciation, they'll express it through frowning, or even anger. I will admit that seeing the elephant get upset with me was actually amusing.
On a similar note, the cute, cartoony visuals make sense and children will enjoy the art style the developers have created. Seeing animals waddle as they walk, or utter loud cries when they're pleased with your service is just great. The store layouts are easy to follow with identifiable images, and the background tambourine noises do well to keep you informed of the going-on's of the store. I wished that there were more music tracks though, since it does get very repetitive.
Once your last customer has left the store, a doorbell will ring, indicating the end of a day. A screen will then appear to summarize how many points you've obtained towards pleasing each specific animal. It'll take about 10 days to please all of your targeted shoppers, but when you do, you'll unlock a new store. So long as the game captures their attention (and there's a high chance it will), there's a lot to keep them coming back whilst keeping motivated. You can continue to work towards your overall Reputation score, or attempt to complete all the Joy Cards for each animal. Doing so will unlock new shops, and going from a measly convenience hut, to a party store that sells balloons, and even DS units is pretty cool.
Happy Birthday Mart doesn't complicate with too much gameplay (such as managing money), perfect for kids who like the idea of running their own store. Although managing a single location again and again can get repetitive, it's not so bad if the game is played in short sessions. This is a fun simulation game that parents may want to get for their kids.
21/30 - Good
Gameplay 7/10 - Hardly complicated, but contains some variety in spite of the simplistic approach, can be repetitive during long sessions
Presentation 7/10 - Cuddly animal characters, suitable music but there could've been more tracks, nice interaction from NPC's
Enjoyment 3/5 - It's fun to care for the needs of your customers, never frustrating, simple mechanics, reduce a point if you're significantly older
Extra Content 4/5 - Multiple stores to unlock, Joy Cards to complete, focus on increasing your reputation, different mini-games to play
Equivalent to a score of 70% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)