Impressions: My Baby First Steps

There are few things I despise more in this world than babies and baby fanatics who want nothing more than to coddle an infant all day long. I think I’d much rather take life in jail over even touching one. No, I’m not changing my mind on this. I’m simply not a kid person. Never have, never will be. Animals are more my speed, thus I’ve enjoyed many an animal sim over the years via GigaPets and Tamagotchi, Nintendogs, and even Dogz, Catz, and Oddballz back in my younger days. With the growing trend of aiming baby-oriented games toward young girls these days, I see a resurgence of the trend only with rugrats in place of animals really being pushed. While playing through My Baby First Steps for the Nintendo Wii and DS it’s true I wanted to shove hot coals into my eyes as I simply cannot bring myself to enjoy taking care of virtual babies, but I must say it’s really a step up from any other standard shoddy simulation titles we’re putting in the hands of children.

You can choose the sex of your baby, though I’d liken the “babies” more to toddlers in that they’re more verbal and they physically resemble munchkins who should be able to walk around on their own and perform their own duties of self-hygiene. After choosing whether you want your child to be a boy or a girl, their race, and appearance, you are thrown right into the responsibility of looking after your own child. Joy of joys. From the start, you have doctors and childcare experts on your tail making sure you’re doing all you can to make sure your baby grows up healthy and smart, which is already a far cry from reality where you either learn on your own or pay thousands of dollars for that kind of help. For the sake of the game, though, I’ll allow it.

You’re able to teach your baby words, waggle toys in front of its face to attempt to get it to walk, and various other tasks that all aid in its development as a human being rather than a babbling sack of nonsense. However, it’s more about guesswork than it is about skill or anything else. You are to move the Wii remote (no Nunchuk involved) about, shaking a toy in front of your baby for encouragement, and press face buttons in order to try to teach him or her words. These methods do work, but the trial and error nature of them will likely confuse younger players, as you must read through several lines of text that kids may not be able to understand too well, especially if they lack basic reading skills.

Aside from teaching your baby new words, you’re also tasked with bathing, changing diapers, reading them to sleep, and even shopping for new clothes. The in-game store is extensive, teeming with plenty of different outfits and items to dress your baby with, while extra money is earned over the course of raising your new addition to the family. While there’s plenty to do, there just isn’t much incentive to do it. Sure, you can pick your baby up and interact with it in certain ways, but most of your time is spent staring at it as if waiting for it to do a trick, and where’s the fun in that? At the very least, dogs are energetic and effervescent, never a dull moment with them. My Baby First Steps asks you to stare at a virtual baby and interact minimally in an effort for the child to grow and learn, and that’s not exactly something you want to give a real child who’s interested in video games, as it will become absolutely frustrating.

Still, the game is made fairly well. Clear instructions are given through the course of the game and it’s simple to figure out what to do next. Minimal Wii remote gimmickry is required and tight, responsive controls have been implemented rather than loose and frustrating point and drag mechanics. Already this brings it a step above the rest, as it’s quite playable if you have the notion to do so. For a Wii title, the graphics are fair as well, and instead of the standard baby fare, you have acoustic guitar, soothing melodies, and catchy beats to accompany gameplay.

My Baby First Steps is far deeper than you may want to give it credit for. It’s a game you can play for quite a while as your child matures and learns new skills, but it’s also pretty dull as well. I suppose that’s just the nature of childcare if you’re not head over heels for children. I can’t see real children wanting to spend too much time with this as well because there’s so little action that it will likely annoy them rather than entertain. With its slow pace and requirement of basic-to-advanced reading skill, it’s not exactly a game I’d recommend for parents to give to children. Thus, we’re at a quandary. It’s obviously marketed toward children but seems far too advanced for its target audience. It’s quite polished in some ways and utterly fails in others. That’s a common problem in creating games for children. If it’s not a terrible game it’s a mediocre game with strange flaws, and that’s something I’d like to see rectified, as my younger cousins should not be subjected to trash rather than quality games they deserve to grow into.

Though neither one of the games are particularly awe-inspiring, if you can’t quite get into the Wii version or want a portable version of your baby to take along, then you might want to pick up the DS edition to complement your experience with a virtual munchkin. It’s essentially the very same experience you’ll have with its big brother console, but controls are much more precise via the stylus, and it feels much more appropriate on a handheld rather than being stationary. Virtual pets were made to be handheld, so if you’re dead set on purchasing this game for a young one, you might want to consider the pros of giving them a game they can play on the go rather than on the more expensive Wii console.

My Baby First Steps is a decent effort from SouthPeak Games, however, and it’s an acceptable if you know a little boy or girl who desperately wants to learn how to take care of a child without the muss and fuss of actually giving birth. That’s not saying much, obviously, but it’s an interesting and more advanced attempt rather than what the Imagine series has submitted over the years.  I did enjoy the portability and accurate controls of the DS version more, although both games are essentially the same.  Progress, no matter how adorable the package it’s in, is something I can appreciate.

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