“Birth Order” does a few things that interest me:
- The pathfinding is a little like the classic original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game for the Intellivision (aka “Cloudy Mountain”), where you have to chart through a colour-coded grid to your destination. No simple level progression here, you have choices to make.
- Like with Ikaruga, you have to select the weapon associated to the correct face button to destroy enemies, but here all your weapons home so the real challenge is in threat assessment, reaction time, and dodging, which gives the game a very different feel for a bullet-hell game.
- Cards are granted periodically as you progress through a level, and if you manage to pick them up you can play in later levels. The power-up stays engaged the whole level, even if you die, but doesn’t carry with you to the following level even if you go through the whole level without being hit. That means there’s an element of strategy to how you apply your power-ups. You must learn what kinds of enemies each colour of hex is likely to throw at you, what power-ups would be most effective against them, and all the while do your best to progress while keeping the choicest power-ups for the final few hexes before the final level boss. That is assuming you can pick up the cards, as the enemy is doing its best to stop you from getting them.
With its emphasis on timing and colour matching, it’s as much a rhythm game as it is a shooter, and an interesting (and, IMO, successful) 80 Microsoft Point experiment. You definitely won’t confuse this for every other “shmup” out there.
Cards are awarded
Here’s what the developer (Mikael Tillander) has to say about the game:
“Birth Order is a horizontal scrolling shoot’em up with a few twists. Twelve different stage types could be on your path to the final fight. You can pick up cards, that can be played out between the stages, to give you even more power or help out in other ways. Each enemy is controlled by a color coded letter, the only way to destroy it is to press the corresponding button on the game pad.”