For the majority of last week I talked about games that I had played at PAX South, and in truth there are still a handful more than I want to discuss. I think that is the real triumph of this years show, that I walked away with so many things that I found interesting enough to write entire posts about. Granted in my super meandering way I end up talking about a lot of things other than the game during each of them. Today is not going to change that. In 2016 the most memorable game at PAX South for me was a game called Ultimate Chicken Horse. In fact this was the sort of experience that I kept dragging people back by the booth to check out for themselves. I don’t have a ton of opportunities to do the whole couch co-op party game thing, and it seems that when I actually do get that opportunity I want to take advantage. I even wrote a couple of different posts about my thoughts talking about just how fresh and interesting the experience was. Now I did not expect to find another game like this, but it seems like it found me.
Ultimately I think I happened to stare a little too long at a booth as I was passing by, and within moments was engaged by someone talking about a game called “Think of the Children”. Admittedly we had not shifted into “lets play all the games” mode yet, and this game was a good part of that mental shift for me at least. The idea apparently came out of a recent game jam and was being groomed into a full game. The concept was simple enough… that you are parents and have to try and take care of a bunch of children. The challenge comes in when you find out that the children are essentially lemmings. They have no survival instinct and instead of simply slowly marching towards the edge of the a cliff… they are going to actively go find danger. The kids might decide it is super awesome to go try and pet a jellyfish… and get stung to death, or mess with a bird… and get pecked to death. Essentially these little buggers are constantly trying to kill themselves and you as the parents are trying desperately to corral or distract them long enough to make it through the timer without losing any of your charges.
This turns out to be exceedingly difficult, and just as you seem to have one group of kids under control… another group goes off and does something truly horrible. Essentially you have a few tools for managing the children… you can either pick them up and move them away from danger… or shout at them which effects every child in range for a super short period of time… before they go right back to doing whatever horrible thing they were planning on doing. You can also temporarily distract children by setting up tables, or deploying a pinata. I found myself largely throwing children away from harm while Rae who was playing with me attempted to set up the distractions. Regardless I was an extremely bad parent and my first time out of the gate I got an F-… and on attempt two I upgraded that to a D. Let me just tell you that was the proudest I had ever been of getting a D in my life.
Sure the game is morbid as hell, given that inevitably some of your children are going to die horrible and stupid deaths. However the gameplay was so fast paced and frenetic that we spent most of our time yelling unintelligible sentence fragments at each other while desperately trying to keep yet another child from going and playing in traffic. I mean there is a clear reason why I am not a parent of anything but animals… because in truth animals have way more survival instinct than proto-humans. Where the game shines is when you are sitting there playing co-op with one of your friends, and if I had an opportunity to do this often I would absolutely suggest this game in your rotation of what I term “party games”. One of the cool things that happens at PAX in general is that you wind up striking conversations with random people while waiting in lines. Each and every time this happened to me it ultimately got down to talking about our favorite games of the show, and this is the game that I kept sending people out into the world to find. It was tucked into a quiet row and was ultimately rather unassuming, but man was it a great experience to play. Even though I don’t have a lot of opportunity for couch co-op I am still going to pick this up for no reason other than to support what is ultimately a really cool game idea. If you find yourself interested in this madness you can check out the official website, or do what I did and just add it to my wishlist on Steam.