Won't somebody please think of the children?
The overwhelming success of Overcooked led not only to a direct sequel, but also indirectly to a glut of similar local co-op multiplayer games. Think of the Children can be slotted into that group. As its name suggests, Think of the Children revolves around parenting and protecting your six children from the environment, wildlife, and of course themselves. While safeguarding the children for 90 seconds, you have to complete stage-related tasks like setting up a pinata at the park or mingling with guests at a house party. In this way, the game plays a lot like Overcooked, but the parents are running around a larger, less confined space compared to the chefs’ kitchen. You are awarded a score and a letter grade based on how many children survive the level and how many tasks you have completed. For this review, I’ve decided to give my own letter grades: one for single-player and one for multiplayer.
Like with most games of this ilk, solo play is available but certainly not the ideal experience. The six children and assortment of tasks is just too much for one player to handle. For example, on the second stage, the beach, you have to set up towels and umbrellas, apply sunscreen to a sunbather, tend a BBQ, purchase ice cream, and build a sandcastle; many of these tasks have to be repeated multiple times, and all of this must be done while making sure the six children under your care don’t get eaten by a shark, electrocuted by jellyfish, or run over by a speedboat. With practice, it is possible to get a passing grade on some of the early stages, but the single player is largely an exercise in frustration. Unfortunately, there are no options for adjusting the difficulty level or the number of children. I suppose it may be a decent way of testing your stress tolerance before jumping into actual parenthood. Grade: D-
Think of the Children is a very different game when played with friends. Coordinating and strategizing give each stage a much more enjoyable type of stress, and it’s fun to figure out the best tactics for the different environments. You might divide the screen into four quadrants, with each player taking care of any children or tasks in their assigned section. Inevitably, someone will make a mistake and be shouted at and blamed, but the feeling of scoring an A grade or higher is made even better when accomplished with your buddies. It’s also hilarious to see the parents throwing the children across the screen or to watch the mischief the kids get up to that puts them in danger. The highs of victory and the lows of being brought down by a single incompetent parent are alive and well when two or more players are available to play. Grade: B
If you have played through all of Overcooked, Overcooked 2, and Death Squared, and you’re looking for another couch co-op game, take a gander at Think of the Children. The simplistic graphics can make elements of each stage hard to see, but levels are colorful and each stage is unique. The gameplay is fun, but really only if you can get some multiplayer going. There is a light story mode and the ability to customize your avatar with characters and clothing you unlock from playing the game. With over 10 stages, many of which also need to be unlocked through gameplay, there is a decent amount of variety and reason to return to the game, but I wouldn’t recommend it for solo players.