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 course.
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.
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