Baby & Me is a Facebook game from Grab Games, designed in partnership with ModernMom.com. It’s a social game that aims to simulate the joys of new motherhood through a series of minigames coupled with conventional social game mechanics.
Baby & Me is largely a game of resource management. The most important things for the player to manage are “happiness ratings” for the mom avatar and her baby, both of whom can be redesigned at will — though only the baby may be given a custom name. Happiness is earned by taking part in a variety of different activities, all of which require energy to participate in. To keep the mom happy, for example, the player may direct her to take part in exercise, watch TV (which triggers videos from ModernMom.com) or treat her to something special such as a makeover. To keep the baby happy, players must ensure that they are clean, well-fed and do not have a dirty diaper. Once these basic needs are fulfilled, the player may then take part in a variety of minigames with their virtual child, most of which are simple skill challenges or puzzles. Successfully completing minigames and quest objectives rewards players with happiness, experience and currency — and usually also a parenting tip from ModernMom.
Many activities, particularly those which involve the baby, require specific items to take part in. If the player does not have the items in question, they must craft them using a universal resource known as “crafting points.” Different items require varying amounts of crafting points to produce, and if the player does not have enough on hand, they are invited to either purchase more with hard currency or visit the game’s town map to take part in a simple hidden object game to find more. The latter option, naturally, costs energy.
The player also has a variety of other options to generate income with which decorations for their virtual home may be purchased. Photographs of their home may then be shared via their Facebook photo albums. Hosting events at their home or at a local restaurant allows players to invite their friends and increase their experience, mom happiness and coin stocks. These rewards are not particularly generous given the amount of energy, time and soft currency required to host them in the first place, but their primary function appears to be to serve as a means to get players to invite their friends to play.
Baby & Me’s main issue is the fact it lacks a feeling of progression. Players level up as they earn experience through taking care of their baby, but there’s relatively little incentive to keep playing as all leveling up achieves is the unlocking of a few additional (and ultimately pointless) in-game items, most of which are nothing more than visual customizations for the mom, baby or nursery. The gameplay itself does not appear to evolve as the player makes progress, meaning many players will likely tire of the game before long. A chat facility beneath the game canvas is presumably intended to encourage people to make return visits to interact with friends they have made from among the player base, but at the time of writing this facility was not working, instead throwing an error message that says “The comments plugin requires an href parameter.”
There’s also an argument that the game is doing little more than reinforcing traditional gender stereotypes. Granted, it has been developed in partnership with a website called “ModernMom,” but it would have been nice to see the option to play as a male avatar to simulate a stay-at-home dad rather than simply assuming the player is female. As it stands, any male players will end up playing as a female avatar with their own male name.
Ultimately, then, Baby & Me deserves a small degree of kudos for tackling subject matter that deviates from the usual farming and citybuilding fare, but its execution is left somewhat lacking — it’s just not a very interesting or fun game to play, and it’s difficult to determine exactly who it’s aimed at. It’s doubtful that real parents would particularly want to play a game about doing the things they already do with their real child, but the advice given in the game implies that it is, in fact, a title aimed at players who already have their own children.
While it’s good to see a Facebook offering that isn’t about farming, popping bubbles or building a city, Baby & Me unfortunately isn’t a particularly fun game at its core.