As a parent, I know that kids are little shits. There, I’ve said it. We all know it but very few would openly say it, especially on such a platform. But they are. They’re devious, mischievous, and by their very nature they’re avid explorers.
Think of the Children takes all of this and then kicks it up a notch. I’ve often looked at my two-year old son, Charlie, and thought he must be suicidal as he balances precariously on the top of the sofa, only to slump down onto the cushions, laughing his little arse off. Think of the Children takes this even further by having kids actually be suicidal, though not in the strictest sense.
Your job in Think of the Children is to keep your kids alive while performing a checklist of tasks. It sounds easier than it is and by the second level you’ll be reaching for the Durex. The kids in this game are actually insane. Fireworks in the garden? They’ll happily run to them. Traffic on the road? Kids don’t care. Barbeque on fire? Kids will try to lick the damn flames. And they’ll die. Really, they do die.
Let’s backtrack a bit and give this game a bit of context. The story goes that you’re a terrible parent standing before the judge. You’re being done for 400-odd counts of child neglect and it’s your job to prove that you’re actually not a bad parent. You do this via the levels that are presented as flashbacks. The better you perform in a level, the better you’ll look in front of the judge and jury. Surprisingly, there’s no executioner – only the kids die in this game.
The game can be played solo or in co-op, and the latter is the preferable option. Playing alone is an exercise in frustration as the game’s overwhelming difficulty is a real turn off. Playing with a partner alleviates this somewhat, but you’ll still struggle to juggle the kids and various tasks you’re supposed to be doing.
One apt comparison I’d make is that Think of the Children is a little bit like Overcooked. You’ve got a single-screen of mayhem where you need to complete tasks to earn points. The only difference is that Overcooked manages to do this in such a way that it’s actually fun when the pressure kicks in. Think of the Children punishes even the slightest lapse in concentration which in turn makes it a chore to play.
Don’t get me wrong, it does have its moment. I played with the Mrs and we did have a few laughs, but the balancing is just all over the place. The first level, for instance, saw us fail completely as all the kids ended up dead. And to be honest, it’s not that funny. For non-parents this might not be such an issue, but for me it was a little uncomfortable and for Beth, my partner, she didn’t like it too much either and noted that if one of the in-game children was named Charlie, she wouldn’t be able to play with it.
It’s a sensitive topic and even though I know it’s just a game, it still made me feel uneasy in the way the game casually laughs off the death of children. You may think I’m just being overly sensitive and touchy, but just wait until you’ve got your very own poop machine and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Technically it’s a fine game. The controls work well, though they’re a little more on the slidey side of things, so running after a kid who’s drowning in the pool can be a touch awkward, but they work well enough once you get the feel for it.
Graphically everything is clean and it’s all presented in a quasi-Minecraft block style. It’s not the most innovative of design choices, but I don’t think I’d want this kind of game to go for anything more realistic, so I guess that goes in the game’s favour. One thing that did annoy me was the lack of clarity when it comes to tasks. You have your checklist at the top of the screen that tell you what you need to do, but reading the single-screen gameplay area isn’t all that easy. Take one of the early levels for example. We were tasked with collecting different groceries in the supermarket and one was bottled water, another was watermelon. The watermelon was distinctive enough to find, but we couldn’t find bottled water to save our kids, literally. By the time we got to the checkout we were four kids down and didn’t even have the ingredients for a meal. I guess that’s Think of the Children all over, really; it’s got a good idea, but there’s some key ingredients missing.
Think of the Children PS4 Review
Think of the Children has some nice ideas but suffers from some poor execution. There’s fun to be had with friends, just don’t try and keep these kids alive by yourself – you’ll be burying them every time.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. Fore more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.
Chris has been writing about gaming news for far too long, and now he’s doing it even more. A true PlayStation know-it-all, Chris has owned just about every Sony console that ever existed. Trophies are like crack to this fella. (Bronze trophies, that is – he only has one Platinum.)