The best part about indie games is that the player can usually feel the love and passion that comes from a smaller developer. When a game is made by a single person, then the title is like a piece of them, giving you a look into their creative vision as it was always intended. Birth by Madison Karrh is one such vision, inviting players into an unsettling world that features beautiful hand-drawn settings and characters.
Throughout the few hours you’ll spend working to build a new friend, you’ll become entranced by the world and the music. There is an abundance of puzzles with just enough repetition that the player can generally figure out what’s going on. You should be warned that Birth doesn’t hold your hand in telling you how the puzzles work, but it doesn’t need to due to the simplicity and brilliance of the gameplay.
While this may be a point-and-click puzzle game at its core, Birth is a mesmerizing adventure that’s just as much about exploring a complex world as it is about making a new friend.
Piecing together a friend in a challenging world
The art style of the game is an undeniable draw to the game, with the love and attention to detail shown by Karrh being nothing short of impressive. It’s consistent throughout, with multiple symbols and themes clearly showing throughout the length of the game. It makes certain areas and puzzles feel familiar with deviations being clearly noticeable, such as new and interesting character designs.
The game seems to veer into body horror, with bones jutting out and flesh ripping open to reveal the item you’d just been looking for. However, it doesn’t feel like horror is what the developer was going for as the world is genuinely very soothing and inviting. It manages to capture the attention in a way that few games do since you never quite know what might be behind secret compartments.
There seemed to be a pretty wide variation between some of the puzzles, which may have been intentional. Some require sitting with them to understand them while others can be solved simply by guessing the few combinations of symbols available. There are no particularly bad objectives, some are just much simpler than others. These admittedly still feel nice to solve.
One of the best parts about Birth is that it isn’t trying to be anything more than what it is. It doesn’t overinflate itself with gimmicky mechanics or repeated puzzles. Birth is just a simple journey through a new reality of creatures who are just like us living their lives. The simplicity of this game in achieving its goal should be studied by larger games that insist on overstaying their welcome to soothe players.
The only logical conclusion
The wide variety of puzzles that players will engage with will either test their logic or their ability to recognize patterns. Since Birth doesn’t provide any kind of tutorial, players are kind of left to their own devices in figuring out how the game works. While this is clearly a stylistic choice and one that accomplishes its goal, there’s something to be said about some players being left behind.
In a perfect world, there has to be a way to better introduce some of the puzzles to players who might not otherwise recognize the patterns. While staring at something for ten minutes until it clicks is fun to some, others might not put in the time required to truly appreciate the brilliance of some of the game’s mechanics. This would be a shame, as the game is something that players should really experience through the end.
There are a handful of puzzles that are easy to understand how to complete, yet they still pose a good challenge to the player. One includes matching up triangles with certain patterns on the same sides and it’s hard to imagine how one could feel more accomplished when finishing that puzzle. This is a common feeling throughout the game, feeling proud that you’re one step closer to building a friend.
The final 10 minutes or so are also pretty enjoyable, working as a culmination of all your efforts in the game up to that point. It’s a nice moment and a great cap to a game that appreciates the time of the player, giving you a satisfying conclusion for all your hard work. It’s a great ending that ends with a slideshow showing the different inhabitants of this strange world, just living their lives.
The Final Word
Birth is a wonderful little adventure through a strange city filled with unsettling creatures that never seem to scare you away. The hand-drawn art and range of puzzles make the game incredibly engaging, leaving you always curious to see what’s behind each door. While some of the objectives might be hard to decipher at first, most players will have a genuinely good time deciphering the codes.
Our Birth review was written based on the PC version of the game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website!