Hungry Baby: Party Treats (Switch) Review
Cutesy art style
Songs can be catchy
Try, die, repeat gameplay
Annoying sound design
Unbalanced, un-fun game modes
Starved for Fun
It’s no secret that I’m a huge party game fan. In my opinion, gaming reached a certain peak right around the time that couch multiplayer reigned supreme. It was a simpler time, back when four controllers and a couple large pizzas were all you needed for a memorable game night. It seems that developer Digital Melody has not forgotten those days, and seeks to bring us back around the TV together, or the Nintendo Switch screen, rather, with their latest title Hungry Baby: Party Treats. On a system that is already awash with plenty of party game options, how does this one fare?
I’ve always been of the mind that party games thrive on simplicity. Give me just enough nuance to keep me coming back, but easy enough to grasp that I don’t have to take a half hour getting newbies up to speed. Hungry Baby, however, might be a little too simple for my taste. The game is broken up into two modes: a party mode, and a campaign. While the campaign is a very redundant slog to collect alarm clocks to rouse a sleeping baby (more on that later), the party mode thankfully offers a teensy bit more variety, though ultimately it is bogged down by problems of its own.
Whichever mode you play, the same foundation is laid for the gameplay. Choose a character, one of a couple dozen, in the shape of delectable treats, such as ice cream, or a milkshake, or perhaps a fruit. There are a lot of characters. Too many, in fact. The screen is overwhelming with how many little sprites are grinning at you, vying for your selection, which overall makes absolutely no difference in how the game is played.
Once everyone has chosen a character and selected a mode, the game begins and a grid appears. Depending on the mode, there may be an objective on one side of the map, and your characters on the other. Movement is handled in four directions, up, down, left, and right, as you navigate the grid. At random, the next square you land on may be a trap. A foot comes down to squash you, accompanied by a funny voice clip. Or perhaps a couple of saws come out of the ground to shred you. No matter what the trap is, the outcome is the same. You return to the starting point.
After a death, a splat or a smear or the still buzzing saw remain on the square where you died, and you are able to successfully avoid falling victim to that trap again. The only other way to avoid these traps is with a power-up, one of a few different power-ups that you get by simply moving around enough on the grid. Lightning can attack opponents. The radar can detect traps. There are a few more, and they are helpful, but ultimately do little to stifle the annoying process of try, die, repeat as you slowly make your way through the ever-emerging maze.
As I mentioned, the campaign has your character starting on one side of the map, with a few alarm clock icons spread around the grid for you to collect. Once you collect them all, the sleeping baby on the opposite side will arise from his slumber and accept nothing less than the total offering of your sugary flesh into his gullet. Too bad getting there is such a drag, thanks to the total lack of skill involved in maneuvering the levels.
My playthrough of each level looked like this: move, die, move, move, die, move, move, move, die, die, ad nauseam until I finally uncovered enough traps to be able to waltz through unscathed. All this set to a ticking clock that determines how many stars (out of three) that I earned in my trivial pursuit.
The multiplayer doesn’t fare much better. While the campaign can be played cooperatively with three other people, the competitive nature of the party mode might trick you into thinking this game is fun. Hint: it’s not. In addition to a rehash of the campaign style, there are four other modes, each varying degrees of not-fun.
There is a last man standing mode, where the last confection to enter a briefcase in the middle of the grid is dropped for the next round, until only one remains. The next mode is a rather broken mode that is ostensibly a race against the clock to jump into a frying pan. The kicker here is that as long as everyone makes it into the pan before the clock runs out, the game will just continue, round after round, seemingly forever. There is a mode that is a race around the grid, with other players’ power-ups constantly sending you back to start. Imagine if Mario Kart was like that. The last mode requires each person to hit a button, in order for a train track to be built and a food cart to successfully cross to a waiting infant.
Despite the lingering mediocrity of the gameplay itself, the art style was rather endearing. The cute way in which the many treats are drawn was cute, and I felt the same way about the big baby I saw so much of. The grid designs are not really anything special, and the only thing that changes is the backdrop of the grid, and the color of the grid itself. The music was fitting, perhaps even a little catchy, barring the main menu song, which just repeats the title of the game in a nauseating voice. The only other complaint about the sound design was the constant boing of the characters hopping around the grid. Maybe you should just play with the sound off.
These complaints are all lobbied at a game that presents itself at a low price point, a cheap way to get some party fun. In that way, perhaps I shouldn’t be too harsh, but I’m a firm believer that price shouldn’t always dictate quality, especially when there are several low cost indie efforts that have a little more, well, effort involved than this title. If you are so inclined, or maybe need to get your blood sugar up, you can pick up Hungry Baby: Party Treats for $4.99 when it launches on May 24th.