Running a new game at a convention can be a challenge. Not only do you have to ensure the game is up to scratch, you also have to make it as enticing and colourful as possible to bring in players across a long, busy few days of a convention full of distracting content. There is one other thing, though, that you might have to consider.
“I’m starting to regret the main menu music,” one of the developer’s begins to explain, as I watch a Deadpool cosplayer attempt to save a child drowning in a pool. I’ve asked him how his weekend has been and, despite showing signs of exhaustion, he chuckles back to me that he’s heard the theme so many times that, “I might have to change it before we launch.”
It’s that kind of tongue-in-cheek humour that permeates Think of the Children by Brisbane’s Jammed Up Studios, a multiplayer game that has you saving kids from various forms of hazards and weird events. Once I got my hands on it myself, that humour became far more obvious. Think of it as a simulator of what not to do if you were trying to protect a group of kids on an excursion to, say the beach or the local park. Except here, everything has a Crossy Road feel to it, with the aim to save as many kids as possible mixed together with bonus objectives (like flipping burgers or applying suntan lotion to a sun happy Grandpa) to increase your overall score per round.
It helps that Think of the Children is incredibly easy to play. You’ll fling your chosen character around the fields rather quickly with a flick of the left stick and, with a single button press, you can pick up a child and move them away from a given area in a flash. Unfortunately, they’ll either move back to the danger zone or be distracted with another, even more devilish scenario nearby. The critters (as my partner likes to call children … can’t argue with it, really) are eager to try whatever they can, so you won’t have much time to grab them whilst mashing the A button to build up that sandcastle.
Despite the rather edgy scenarios at play, Think of the Children is played with a stroke of colour and a surprising lack of violent animation. Like I said, it’s all about the humour, though I’m sure even then some people might not appreciate the concept of a game that has kids getting run over by traffic or dragged away by a shark.
Personally I had no qualms, and I know the audience Jammed Up Games are aiming for won’t either. With a few friends (up to 4 are supported), this could get both hectic and competitive, as you try to keep Grandpa from going up in flames or hijacking a child rescue attempt to score points yourself. There’s plenty of potential for growth too, with even weirder scenarios or character designs if the dev team are keen. I can’t see why not.
I had just as much fun seeing the end results as I did playing the game proper. On my second attempt I managed an A+ rating, not bad for a beginner, but I later discovered that one of the children had buried themselves in a sandpit out of boredom, despite my and my fellow players best attempts. No matter the result, we both laughed aloud at the thought of the kid going ‘well, screw this’.
Think of the Children is set for release mid 2017 on PC, with the potential to make the jump to consoles at a later date. Having been developed during the Brisbane Game Jam just a few months ago, it’s come along really well in such a short space of time. Who knows what the team are cooking up for the kids next, but I for one am looking forward to rescuing … well … most of them.