As wonderful as babies are, they’re also hungry, fussy, noisy and often stinky. And if you thought taking care of one was a handful, imagine trying to juggle up to eight of them at the same time!
That’s the challenge behind Carrie the Caregiver, a new download from Shockwave and The Article 19 Group.
Carrie is a fresh-faced 23-year-old healthcare worker who has recently graduated from nursing school. She joins an organization called Caregivers International, which gives her the opportunity to travel and sharpen her skills by caring for newborn babies in hectic maternity wards around the world.
The gameplay will be familiar to those who have played the Diner Dash series, Cake Mania, Roller Rush, Mystic Inn or anything of that ilk. Carrie must move the babies onto available tables, remove bottles of milk from the refrigerator and warm them up, take the warm milk to the babies, collect the empty bottles when they’ve finished, and finally change the babies into fresh diapers. As a final treat, Carrie gets to dispose of the dirty diaper left behind on the table.
The babies arrive with a certain number of hearts representing their overall contentedness and health. If Carrie takes too long to attend to their needs, the babies will lose all their hearts and be whisked off to intensive care.
If Carrie can juggle her responsibilities successfully and see to all the babies’ needs while maintaining her own energy and hygiene levels (replenished by eating and washing her hands), she’ll pass the level and move on to other continents that each have a unique setting and, in some cases, unique gameplay elements-in Africa, for example, Carrie can carry a third item in a basket on her head.
As she progresses through her training, Carrie’s bosses give her more challenges like adding extra tables for her to juggle, an extra bottle warming station, and various baubles to distract the babies and buy herself more time. There are also various types of "special needs" babies that need to be given extra attention, such as hungry babies that require two feedings instead of one, fussy babies who lose patience more quickly, loud babies whose crying causes babies around them to become upset too, and delicate babies who will become sick if Carrie touches them with dirty hands.
Carrie the Caregiver doesn’t break a lot of new ground, but it’s a solid, fun game that does come with a few little extra touches. For example, Carrie records her journey in a "blog" that can be read at any time from the main menu. She also writes songs about her experiences, which can be downloaded from www.carriethecaregiver.com.
The game’s presentation is also a strength. The ambient baby noises are a nice touch, and everything is very lifelike… right down to the sound babies make just before they need their diapers changed. The babies are nicely drawn and animated as well. Seeing their little faces turn from happy to sad if they aren’t being looked after really does bring out the maternal instincts.
Because Carrie the Caregiver is targeted to parents, it might not appeal to all segments of the casual game audience equally. Men without kids, for example, might not find the idea of burping babies and changing dirty diapers to be terribly appealing-unless they’re diehard fans of the Diner Dash genre.