Think of the Children is a local co-op game that has you taking on the numerous challenges of being a parent. You are not just the parent of one child—that would be too easy—but instead are in charge of multiple toddlers, all looking to get into mischief and only a few seconds away from environmental dangers.
Your job is keeping them safe, an obvious main goal for a parent, but you also have to perform tasks at each location to score points. Things like setting up towels at the beach, socializing with friends at a party, and applying suntan lotion to granddad so he doesn’t burn. A few tasks, such as tending to a barbecue, can be done over and over for more points as the timer ticks down. It’s tempting to turn away from the children to rack up those points, which is a very bad idea.
Children aren’t very good at knowing what is unsafe and in Think of the Children that’s everything. They’ll fight dogs, break vending machines, play with enormous sharks, drink poison, and throw knives, just to mention a few.
Once a child is near death, a warning sign will appear by them and blink. You need to rush over to grab them, or shout from nearby in order to save their lives. This has to be done immediately, since there are no extra lives in Think of the Children.
Other levels don’t revolve around gaining loads of points, but instead are about minimizing embarrassment. Shopping, for example, is made even harder by looking after six feral children while trying to complete your shopping list and clean up their mess. If you manage to stop them drinking poison but still become too embarrassed your score will fall. Your children on the other hand are never embarrassed, the tiny mongrel beasts.
This is where multiplayer really helps. Playing on your own is possible, but the chaos of simultaneously taking care of that many kids and trying to do all of the tasks may be too much. I needed at least one other player to pass levels—without a player two, I could barely keep one child alive. Luckily, Think of the Children lets you to play with up to three friends. Turns out it does take a village to raise a child.
Party Mode lets you go through all of the levels without having to unlock each new one, while Story Mode forces you to get a decent grade before moving on, but also shows hilarious cutscenes in which you’re sent to court for negligence. While the judge is quite relaxed about the whole thing, you still need to make a case and find a way to defend the fact that your child was somehow eaten by seagulls. He even pulls up witnesses who were at the various locations, which is why it’s worth paying attention to the needs of the NPCs in each level.
Think of the Children started as a concept created for the Brisbane 48-hour Game Jam, and it’s delightful to see something go from a game jam oddity to a full release on Steam. It’s wacky, chaotic, and super fun and will really test how well you can parent (though actual parents probably deal with fewer sharks). I only hope that my children fare better than the ones in this game.