The hoary advice given to authors is to write what you know. It’s not bad advice (though not applicable if want to write games about demons, comic-book supervillains, or financial crimes), but it can be difficult to get other readers invested in something that happened in your own life, even if it was interesting to you. To quote much better advice, personal isn’t the same as important. Especially in a short game with no time to develop the protagonist as a character, it’s tricky to get the audience involved in a low-stakes story without any context or universality. “Daddy’s Birthday” manages to avoid this problem by being charming and short enough to avoid wearing out its welcome.

Gameplay: You are a father on his birthday, and you’re wandering downstairs after waking up. That’s it for story, and there really doesn’t need to be any more of it. There’s no laundry list of items to collect, contrived set-piece puzzles to solve, or overwrought monologues to slog through. The author’s notes state that the game was based off a conversation with his eight-year-old daughter, and the game has the charm of having being written with a child without the implementation hiccups of having been written by a child. It’s not profound, but it’s not trying to be. 7/10.

Mechanics: There aren’t any unusual mechanics in the game: You wander around a house, pick up an object or two, and finish off the game. Your goals at each point in the game is clear, and there aren’t any significant obstacles in the way of them. 5/10.

Presentation: The text is smooth throughout. Although it’s based on an idea from the author’s daughter and is written from the viewpoint of a child (narrating an adult’s actions), the game avoids being twee or indulgent. It has the odd and compelling style of explaining a child’s viewpoint to an adult, and it manages to present a narrative that is simultaneously tailored to a specific, younger audience and a general, older one. It’s charming. 7/10.

You might like this game if: You were ever considering writing a similar game for or with your own child.

Score: 6

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