Games From My Childhood Library: Arthur’s Birthday

Screenshot: A mini game in Arthur’s Birthday where you have to sort presents.
Written By: Katelyn Vause

“Games from my Childhood Library” is a series I’ll be doing where I go through the CD-ROM games that I played/owned when I was growing up. Some have been given to the CD-ROM Fossil Library, but some, whether due to a lack of particular value or me being too nostalgic to give them up, are still in a black CD case at home. I’ll talk about both, and I’m going to start off the new year with Arthur’s Birthday.

This article is in honor of everyone whose birthday falls between December 1st and December 31st. I’ve heard the complaints of my friends who have a birthday between those dates; their birthday is always overshadowed, gifts double for both occasions, and it can be hard to find time to celebrate in the holiday chaos. While Arthur’s Birthday takes places in May, it seems appropriate to give a shout out to those who don’t quite have the same recognition as those of us born in the other eleven months of the year.

Arthur’s Birthday is a relatively short game as far as the story itself goes, but the interactivity within the “pages” of the game (shots taken from a storybook) more than make up for it. The premise of the story is that Arthur’s birthday party is Saturday, and he’s inviting all of his friends from school. However, he finds out that one of his friends, Muffy, is having her party on the same day. Arthur and another friend, Francine, team up together to solve the problem: they plan a joint birthday party, and surprise Muffy by having everyone at Arthur’s house on the day of the party. It’s a sweet story, and a smart, simple solution to a problem that many kids had to deal with at some point or another. But most of my favorite elements of the game have nothing to do with the narrative itself.

One of the hands-down best aspects of the game is the interactivity. Each page of the story has incredibly detailed backgrounds, and almost every detail can be clicked on, prompting the object to momentarily come to life with motion and sounds. I remember one of my favorites being the toaster on the very first page. Click on the toaster, and a mouse creeps out to stand in front of it. You hear a ticking noise, then two pieces of toast spring out of the toaster. The mouse catches them and runs off screen, all the while screaming “Ooooh! Hot hot hot!” I clicked on that toaster probably a dozen times in a row on any given play through, and it never failed to make me smile. Another funny animation involved a drawing of a giraffe on the wall at the school. Click on the giraffe, and it makes a mischievous face before reaching down to pull on the bow of the girl standing in front of it. Every page of the story had a dozen or so objects to click on to prompt an animation, and all were interesting, funny, and perfectly tailored to the Arthur target audience.

The animations also served another purpose. On every page, there was a hidden clue. The clue would open a screen that showed six of Arthur’s friends. Each friend had a gift for him, and the clues would reveal what their present was not. For example, a clue for Buster might be that his gift was small or that it didn’t squeak. The very last page of the game is Arthur and his friends at the table. You click and drag the presents in front of each friend in order to reveal who brought what gift. When they’re all correct, you can choose a gift to open, at which point the present will pop out and have a short animated sequence like the other objects in the game. This is technically the “point” of the game, but it somehow winds up feeling like a bonus activity for getting through the story.

Speaking of animations, this is an incredibly minor detail, but another thing I loved as a kid. Whenever you click to go to the next page of the story, the screen goes black, and your cursor turns into an animation of a little man running. I used to move my cursor across the screen like he was running from one side to the other, which provided fun while the next page loaded. There’s also a pin the tail on the donkey mini-game. Though you play it about halfway through the story, you can also choose to play it as a stand-alone activity from the main screen. It’s relatively challenging, as the donkey dances around the poster at a speed of your choice, and it’s very colorful. You can even choose to turn the lights off and attempt to pin the tail in the dark based on your memory of the donkey’s dance pattern. Also on the main screen is an option to just have the story read to you. I don’t remember ever using that feature, but I think it’s great all the same.

Arthur’s Birthday is a real gem, a game that I played over and over again without my interest ever diminishing. I actually don’t really have many critiques for it, except to say that I remember wishing the story had been longer, and found the loading times for each page to be kind of long. But that’s a pretty short list of complaints, and I genuinely have nothing but fond memories of the time I spent clicking through it.

On behalf of everyone at CD-ROM Fossil, Happy New Year! We hope 2019 is fun and full of great games, both new and old. Did you get a childhood favorite as a gift for your birthday? Comment and tell us about it! Bonus points if your birthday is between those dreaded end of the year dates.

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