After years of Cooking,
Gardening, and even after a bit of Crafting,
it seems there isn't much Majesco's all-purpose heroine hasn't done already, or
much she isn't willing to try. But even her most imaginative of fans
probably wouldn't have guessed what lay in store for them in her next grand
adventure, as she's about to take mini-games where they've never gone before.
Videogame's undisputed matron of the digital domain is back with her most cuddly
profession yet, this time promising the "first interactive baby" by dispatching
any notions of inter-gender appeal and straight to the hearts of little girls
everywhere with Babysitting Mama. Only the action now takes
place between you, Mama, and an actual plush baby doll.
Yes, you read that correctly. Babysitting Mama comes packed with its
own stuffed plush doll designed to help make it the most authentic babysitting
experience yet, shy of spending time with a real flesh-and-blood version,
anyway. That's a good thing, too, as the game seems like it would be an
ideal place for legions of future babysitters to learn the basics of the craft
with its emphasis on primary childcare activities. These include feeding,
burping, cuddling, and - there's no getting around it - changing dirty diapers.
You'll slip a single Wii remote inside the back of the doll itself, which
measures how you hold and move the doll itself, while an attached Nunchuk takes
care of most other duties.
The game retains the same basic look and feel of past games in the series,
with bright and colorful visuals rendered in that unmistakable 'Mama' style
we've come to know so well. Cel-shaded babies and their various activities
are pleasing to the eye, although the the sound is a mixed bag, as the cherubic
laughs and cries that spring forth out of the remote's speaker are extremely
muffled and even confusing; this isn't unusual for its lower-quality speaker,
but its still disappointing to hear such cuteness distorted.
Needless to say, the doll will gather a
couple stares if you happen to be nursing this loveable plushie alone, gently
rocking it to movements that are seldom more complex than sways; the controls
are pretty responsive considering the remote is embedded deep inside a stuffed
infant. A number of the mini-games require the doll to be moved in
specific directions, and these work about as well as you'd expect them to (i.e.
most, but not always). One thing that's bound to annoy some is the strange
warning sensitivity; not that we'd ever think of flailing the baby about
haphazardly, but I was shocked at how often even the smallest movements halted
the game with a cautionary "DON'T SHAKE THE BABY!" I imagine this
encourages youngest players not to toss live babies around, but having the game
blast out countless warnings might not have the desired effect; this baby
definitely cries wolf a bit too often.
Expect this often while playing, and it can be downright annoying how this warning tends to appear even under
the most delicate of burping sessions; unless you’re a diabolic sociopath, of
Otherwise the controls work fine, and there's not much to complain about as
you'll be using the Nunchuk during playtime as much as the embedded remote.
Of course, don't expect anything more complicated than rotating the analog stick
around, as the non-baby controlled elements remain just as shallow. Other
activities pop up to help alleviate the monotony that pure babysitting alone can
have, such as getting the laundry out of the rain or preventing a steak from
being overcooked, all by simply shaking the Nunchuk before the time runs out.
They'll also cause Mama to leave her charge unattended. I found this a bizarre
design choice (even for a game packed with a stuffed doll), especially with its
focus on proper childcare etiquette.
In fact, quite a few of these mini-games will actually have you setting the
doll aside for moments at a time, which can be a disappointing discovery if you
were expecting more quality time with your diaper-clad bundle of joy.
Outside of main babysitting activities, you'll also be able to partake in the
Babysitter's Guide, which lets you play through any of the dozens of mini-games
you've unlocked along the way. The game also supports two-players, and
while having an extra doll is completely optional, the results are as good as
you'd expect. The lack of new and engaging challenges can be felt
throughout the game, and I wish there was more in the way of variety.
Unlike its stuffed doll pack-in, Babysitting Mama won't be a
game that everyone will want to pick up and enjoy, though it does offer one of
the most unusual experiences the videogame world has seen yet. It's almost
a shame the actual gameplay never quite lives up to its potential, as the
relative lack of variety and available mini-games is bound to disappoint those
who were expecting more than just simple baby swaying or Nunchuk controls.
The controls are never as dynamic nor engaging as holding an adorable plush toy
might suggest, and it's highly unlikely that we'll see many - if any - games
that use it coming down the pipeline anytime soon; then again, one-shot
peripherals (however cute) aren't exactly anything new on the Wii.