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DS  header logo

Baby Pals

For: DS

Babysitting made fun?

Product: Baby Pals | Publisher: THQ | Format: DS | Genre: Casual, Simulation | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Baby Pals DS, thumbnail 1
Baby Pals is the sort of game it's easy to poke fun at. About as easy as poking fun at a squirrel with memory issues, that can't find the acorns it stored. Or a dog that keeps barking at its own shadow. Or, if you're that kind of person, at a small, innocent baby who can't answer back.

It's easy because for starters it's a game about looking after an infant, an activity which even most parents will testify isn't all that enjoyable in the first place. Everything from having to say, "I love you baby" into the DS microphone to the most hideous screaming noise which comes resonating from your handheld's speakers could essentially be argued as the worst thing ever to happen on a games console.

But while Baby Pals isn't my personal choice of sit-down-and-relax entertainment, it's easy to see how it will appeal to its target audience. For young girls not that familiar with game-playing and who enjoy nothing more than giving a floppy toy baby a pretend bottle before tucking it in its pretend bed, this game could well be the best thing they've seen since American Idol Barbie.

The game begins with you creating your own baby. Fortunately not through some sort of mini-game depicting how that actually happens in real life, but with you designing their features – from nose size to skin and eye colour – then adopting him or her.

You're then presented with a viewpoint you'll be seeing for most of the game. It's a similar one to Nintendogs but instead of having a top screen full of bouncy puppies, you have your baby thrashing about in its cot. The bottom screen, meanwhile, is dedicated to a touchscreen menu which consists of activities such as feeding, bathing and playing.

There's also a simple display that can be accessed at any point and which shows what your baby wants at any one time. So when the relevant bar for cleanliness reaches orange or red you'll know to bath your baby or change its nappy.

Bathing, and other activities in the game, are done using simple mini-games. The bathing is actually very similar to washing your puppy in Nintendogs with the obvious difference being that instead of soaping up a happy, tail-wagging dog, you get to lather the suds on an angry faced, crying baby. Brilliant.

Perhaps like the real thing, my baby didn't really ever shut up for long in the course of the game, except for when I was waving a toy at her or feeding her. It made the whole experience that bit less enjoyable for me than Nintendogs – largely because the sound of a baby crying has surely evolved over millions of years into something no adult can bear listening to for longer than about ten seconds without having to act. Thus ensuring the survival of the species.

You do get a few gurgles of contentment but the crying far outweighs those and prompts pretty quick turning down of the DS volume.

There are plenty of other mini-games included. Some revolve around playing different games with your baby, such as patty cake and peek-a-boo, while others teach it colours and how to crawl. They're all very easy and demand next to no gaming skills at all. That said, they can still be failed, in which case you won't win the hearts that are used as currency in the in-game shop, where you can buy clothes and toys.

The shop is a smart inclusion to the game for kids who like nothing more than dressing up a baby or doll. I notched up the cute factor of my baby by getting her a basin haircut and a stripey babygro, then bought a toy giraffe to wave in her face. The babies are fairly cute to start with though, albeit in a slightly dead-eyed way, and their animations are nicely done, too.

There are other neat inclusions, such as the Cooking Mama-style mini-games for preparing food, and the added incentive of teaching your baby so it can advance through different stages. Essentially, while Baby Pals could be criticised for being a bit slow and repetitive – and I certainly wouldn't want to play it for longer than 20 minutes on a trot – it does have a similar scale of options to Nintendogs, but on a shallower level.

Baby Pals is tricky to score because it's aimed at such a select audience. It's not so much your typical game and more a virtual pet you pick up for a few minutes a day, albeit one featuring a very realistic baby (which I personally find a lot less likeable than a chirpy fluffy animal). But undoubtedly, in delivering a realistic baby simulation with plenty of variety as well as something that even a very young child could have fun with, it fulfils everything its maker has probably set out to achieve.

And for that reason I'd strongly recommend it to its intended audience. If that's you, just bear in mind when playing that terrible tinny screaming sound is enough to shred the nerves of any adult standing within 20 metres of your DS.
Baby Pals
Reviewer photo
Kath Brice | 2 May 2008
A baby simulation for young, baby-loving DS owners. There's not much in the way of gameplay and the mini-games are simple but it's a cute, well structured experience that will strongly appeal to its target audience
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