It’s probably safe to say that Happy Birthday Mart is a legitimate winner of the Most Childish Game on the DSiWare Store Right Now Award. From the simplistic gameplay to the mindless use of animals, it’s definitely not for anyone over the age of 6 or 7. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a bad game; actually, it’s surprisingly not terrible. The only real issue is keeping you interested long enough to warrant any real judgement, and it does this just fine; as long as you’re a child, that is.
Happy Birthday Mart is a dumbed-down management simulator, in effect. You play a store owner while other animals come and visit your shop to buy gifts, and in order to satisfy your customers the store needs to be in tip-top shape: garbage needs to be thrown out, customers need help finding items and the shelves need restocking as soon as possible.
The shoppers will slowly walk around your store carefully checking everything out. When a customer needs help a question mark will pop up above them, and this is where you, the store owner, come into play. Once a customer has been successfully brought to your attention (by your chosen animal slowly walking towards them) a minigame will pop up, basically turning the game into justifiable video game.
The minigames are separated into different food or items, depended on where the customer is standing. The ice cream minigame, for example, has you matching each scoop with the correct flavour while the bone game has you matching shapes as they slowly fall down the screen. Completing these will net you more positive feedback which is ultimately the goal of the entire game.
It sounds very simplistic, and well, it is. The game is never complicated and never feels too strenuous; your main goal is to help each customer when needed so they don’t get angry and storm out. When a customer leaves your store satisfied, that animal’s happiness increases unlocking more presents for you to award customers for added happiness. So basically, the better your store looks, the more stuff your customers will buy; the more items your customers buy, the more presents you attain to give away. The more presents you give away, the happier they become, and the happier animals become the more stores you can unlock. Simple.
The stylus is the main control option of Happy Birthday Mart and is well implemented. The D-Pad is for moving the camera around while tapping areas on the screen will move your animal around the store. Minigames are primarily controlled with the touch screen and they too work pretty well. There’s also an option to use the buttons to control the game but they only add a level of unnecessary complication to the gameplay.
In terms of visual presentation Happy Birthday Mart is, again, very simplistic. It’s not pushing the boundaries of the system but it’s not trying to: the blocky animal designs and the blurry textures round out the package while the sprite-based minigames look decent. The game’s audio lacks in punch and features very generic, elevator music-like tunes that may haunt your nightmares with their repetitious nature ,and the animal sound effects can also irritate.
As an entire package Happy Birthday Mart is slim. It only features the main “store” mode though the mini games can be chosen from the main menu if you wish, and there’s no multiplayer, either. But luckily the game isn’t for you, it’s for children that hardly know right from wrong. The game features a very simplistic design that isn’t meant to be played but normal gamers looking to manage a store. As a child’s game it does its job very well, but for anyone else it’s a solid pass.