When I first started playing Think of the Children, I had no clue what to expect. I hadn’t read anything about it, nor seen any trailers. I figured it was a family party game that wouldn’t hold my attention as a solo player. It might sound evil, but I was filled with glee when I realized how dark and violent this game actually is behind the colorful exterior. Without being too graphic, it’s still almost disturbing. The loss of a child is likely the worst feeling any parent can have, and unfortunate accidents happen all the time. You have to be able to look at the concept as just dark humor here because it is quite a bold move to have children dying all around you. It’s almost disturbing watching a child jump into a pool while another is about to be kidnapped from a strange man in a van. There is danger all about you, and you’ll need to prioritize who to save in what order. The game treads a very, very fine line, but as a whole, it manages to find its way. If you like time management games and don’t mind the idea that neglecting a child can result in their death, it might be worth trying this one out.
Here’s what I liked:
Ridiculousness— Without a doubt, the concept is shocking. As you fail the children by not keeping them in line, they perish in an ultra-violent manner. Drowning and being hit by cars are mild compared to being pecked to death by seagulls, mangled by wolves and getting stuck inside a dryer. Chances are you will watch every type of death in just one playthrough. One of my favorite scenes is at the zoo. A child can fall into the gorilla pit. Quickly a zookeeper runs in and uses a tranquilizer to stop it. It’s an obvious reference to the Harambe situation that happened in real life. Between each stage, you will watch scenes in a courtroom where your parent character is defending himself against several negligence charges. This was quite funny and creative.
Stage Variety — Each stage can feel quite different. Most will be about keeping everyone alive, but there are a few mixed in where the focus is to avoid embarrassment. Even though there isn’t a risk of death, you will lose a lot of points if you don’t control your kids. There is even a stage where you fall from a plane and need to grab jetpacks and give them to each kid (which is actually pretty tough). Variety will keep the pace of the game interesting. My least favorite level was the last level, which I believe to just be way too difficult playing by yourself. All of the other levels are stressful but seem plausible with practice. The stages were very creative, and it must have been really fun creating the dangerous situations within them.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Single Player — Difficulty does not change based on how many people you have playing with you. If you play alone, you will face the same challenges as a group of four players. This makes playing alone very tough. Sometimes you’ll barely scrape by with a low-grade. This creates a level of frustration if you don’t have more players. If you could play online, it would have really filled the difficulty gap, and I believe it would have been much more enjoyable.
Unlock System — There are plenty of items to unlock to use for customizing your parents. Based on your grade, a wheel is spun similar to a slot machine. Once it stops you unlock a random item. If you unlocked A items, you will then have to do worse to grab the B category. I guess I just don’t like having to do worse to gain more. It’s a difficult scoring system to get the hang of. I believe a system where you gained perks or upgrades would have made replaying levels much more gratifying. The current rewards are lackluster, and you only will care about the ones which are tied to achievements. It’d have been awesome to be able to unlock a megaphone to get a larger radius on your shout. Or maybe shoes that made you run faster. I felt there was a bit of potential missed that could have pushed this game above being average.
Grading — You graded on your performance as a parent. You must deal with setting things up (like tables or lights at a party), which then gets multiplied by how many kids survived. The grading system is actually pretty brutal, forcing you always to need to keep everyone alive if you want the top scores. That makes sense, but there is so much going on that it’s difficult to run around gaining points at the same time that you’re keeping the young ones alive. This is mostly an issue while playing solo. Just like in real life, you only have two arms. Some stages will have a saving grace such as balloons or ice cream that round-up the toddlers so you can speed around trying to accomplish the challenges. I was able to get a few A scores, but mostly I was averaging a C score or lower with each attempt when playing solo. You’re definitely not being graded on a bell curve here. It’s do or die, and I mean that quite literally.
Even though I’m not a parent myself, I can appreciate the humor behind them getting into things that might harm them. It may sound stupid, but I actually noticed myself actually more aware afterward when kids are around and how their attention and curiosity can get them into trouble. I’m sure parents will enjoy this even more, even though it’s quite an exaggeration. What children do and how it can make you worry of judgment being made based on your parenting skills is an actual reality. If you really enjoy time management based games, this one will be a definite break from the more serious games in the genre.
Score: Reader’s Choice
Think of the Children was published by Fellow Traveler and developed by Jammed Up Studios on Xbox One. It was released on September 26, 2018, for $12.99. A copy was provided by the publisher for review purposes.