Who’s Your Daddy is a game I feel like I’ve been waiting for my entire life.
Picture this. A smoky board room. A tray of stale bagels and scummy lox lay on a bureau by a flimsy interior door. Yellowed posters of past hits wilt on the wall, dog-eared corners long-since torn from their scotch tape moorings listing in the air conditioning. Six lifeless executives hunch over various proposals…nicotine-stained fingers shuffling amongst an endless litany of tired tropes.
One man perks up. Everything has been said…except one thing.
“What is it, Steve?” the boss asks, the words falling clumsily out of his barely open mouth. He used to be a professional tennis player. Not anymore. He thinks about his halcyon days on the court. He was a king back in college…now barely a serf, perpetually serving fatter and stupider masters in the realm of middle management. Years of being beaten into submission by a string of increasingly poor life choices had dulled his passions. Not today. Today is a day for chances. Today…is a day for the bold.
“It’s a game about killing babies. It came to me after I killed my baby. It was more fun than it sounds.”
The room, silent. The boss, glaring at Steve, extends a shivering digit toward the phone and presses the intercom button.
“Gladys…call in the Wolf.”
Yes, that is the scene I imagine here. It has to be the scene…because there is a serious problem here. And yes, I only imagine that Harvey Keitel slides into a parking spot in his yellow NSX and struts into the building and starts declaring how the game will be made. Why, only the Wolf could possibly understand how to make a game centered about autoneonaticide.
To put this in context, I’ll say that the actual premise of the game is not the act of killing babies, but it is the act of trying to keep a baby from committing suicide. I am not perhaps a complete psychopath for anticipating a game like this. Yes, anticipating. I wanted to play this. As it happens, I have been looking forward to playing it for quite some time.
Shocked as I was that this game is NOT in early access and, in fact, is apparently is a complete game, we have one of the worst examples of a modern-day “box beta” that I’ve ever seen.
Now, let’s look at gameplay before the lambasting starts. The game is as simple to play as it is painful to look at. Vanilla WASD controls bely the game’s complexity, as there is a key mapping as confusing as any RTS hotkey scheme, with one key difference. None of the keys appear to do anything. Yes. Nothing you do has any apparent consequence.
If you start as the baby, you begin in a crib, and you are likely to have the camera spawn inside of the skull, so you see the backside of your avatar’s eyeballs. Your character has a stamina bar, which allows your baby self to crawl insanely fast for about five seconds. Crawl out of the room and the grand foyer will present itself to you…and maybe another baby.
As the baby, you get to crawl through the house, looking for ways to die. Almost anything will kill you. Drink soap, eat soap, crawl into a hot tub, crawl into a cold tub, hot shower, eating batteries, crawling into the pool, or onto a hot Weber grill…all of those lead to death. Maybe not instant death, but death nonetheless. It is your job to find a way to these things before daddy can stop you.
As the daddy, your job is to stop the baby from killing itself. You do this in…well…you don’t do this. The baby always dies. As the father, you really only have one defense- you can move things away from the baby’s reach. That’s pretty much it. Coupled with one of the worst UIs I’ve ever encountered, it is easier said than done.
In this screenshot you can see how I moved the grill out of baby’s reach by throwing it into the pool. Oh, yeah, all the baby has to do is crawl into the pool. Baby is purple, meaning it drowned.
Please note in that image the manifestation of my many struggles as a father in my pleas for help, as I chatted the words “I can’t seem to be able to…do anything.”
And that is the recurring theme of this game. Incredible promise, incredible opportunity in a sandbox world, but with one very simple mechanic totally missing.
Just pick the baby up. JUST PICK IT UP! USE YOUR HANDS!
Prevent this from happening:
See, the green baby means it is poisoned. Can you somehow flush the baby’s system? Or how about calling poison control? Nothing. No way to remedy the baby. You lose again.
Or how about when baby climbs into the shower and turns the water on?
Amongst the numerous gameplay imbalances, also note the atrocious clipping issues in this game, 90s-quality graphics, and the vast array of customization options, such as, putting a top hat and sunglasses on your baby avatar…which you can see in this screenshot of a baby that has lit itself on fire and is running around the house, spreading the flames.
There is only way to balance out this game: play against a baby. Yes, a real baby. I actually think that there is an important meta game involved here…I believe, honestly, that this game was intended to be played with adult human males playing the father and actual infants at the controls of the baby. See, babies are dumb. Let’s not get all wrapped up in this romantic idea about how smart babies are…they’re pretty stupid. They are not adults with complex reasoning skills, who know, from a lifetime of almost killing themselves, what is and what is not an existential threat. An adult will crawl out of that crib and go straight for the kitchen, and shove a butterknife into a light socket knowing full well that it will fry them to a crisp- beanie and all.
But a baby? A baby would stay put, slobbering all over himself IRL, not even leaving the crib. Cribs are designed for the express purpose of caging in a baby, so the game’s entire premise is false to begin with. The Father player would sit on the couch, really not having to do anything…much like in real life. He would fall asleep with the baby monitor on, and turn it down when the baby makes some noise. Instead of sprinting out of his crib, opening doors and manipulating complex machinery just to kill himself, the baby will just sit there, mewling and cooing, and probably trying to stuff the mouse into his mouth…but the mouse is too big, see, and does not present a choking hazard.
Or, maybe it’s the fact that I am not a father, and at 34 childless years old, I simply have no idea what a baby is capable of pulling off. Are babies actually supra geniuses? Can they open doors, bend bars, lift gates, figure out how to drink battery acid, open bleach bottles, and start charcoal grills? Are babies capable of doing these things?
After all of the violence and double-talk, this is a game about the trouble and the strife. It is terribly imbalanced, and the game-matching is difficult to work with- it took me about ten minutes to find a partner, probably because it is almost impossible to find a Father to play against, since you search for games based upon the role you want to play and not based upon available matches. Adding to this problem is the fact that controls are squishy and overcomplicated for a game that really seems like it should be incredible simple. This is a game about manipulation and thought, but it plays like a gem where only speed matters…but there’s no way you can be fast enough to stop the baby from eating batteries, setting himself on fire, or any other potential malady that may befall the baby. It seems as if the only way for the daddy to win is to have a curious baby player who does not kill himself with sufficient alacrity, therefore ceding victory to the daddy. Or, the controls are so poorly mapped that the daddy may win because the world is so difficult to manipulate. Your choice, I guess.
The music (what precious little there is), is a blaring distraction that seems like an afterthought. The graphics and physics…likewise.
I’ll leave you with a conversation that actually transpired between myself and another player in one of these matches. You can see several bits of these exchanges in this article’s screenshots.
VorTeK_TacTiK: Follow me.
Budiak: Is there even a daddy?
Budiak: Isn’t that the point of this though?
VorTeK_TacTiK: Well I don’t know
VorTeK_TacTiK: Follow me
Budiak: are you saying you are playing a game where the only mechanic you know of is committing suicide?
VorTeK_TacTiK: go outside dude
Budiak: I’m going to explore this game a bit. There has to be more to do than kill yourself on a Weber grill.
VorTeK_TacTiK: What you wanna do
Budiak: I’m drinking cleaning supplies
VorTeK_TacTiK: <not recorded chat, but something to the tune of “how did you do that”>
Budiak: I found them in a closet. How many times have you played this?
VorTeK_TacTiK: not a lot
AND, scene! So, we have here a microcosm of what is wrong with games like this. Here’s a guy who has found a game that involves killing yourself as a baby. Yes, baby suicide is the ONLY mechanic he knows of in this game. Not only that, but he knows of a winning formula in knocking over the grill and climbing into the sweet, hot coals. With that knowledge he has found considerable strength of conviction, and has taken to DEMANDING that those he plays with do as he says and follow him to the grill outside. When he finds that I have discovered another way to kill myself, he can barely cope with the reality of his own ignorance.
At least that’s how I like to interpret it.
Graphics, music, controls, premise, physics, and openness are all severely lacking in both fundamental quality and sophistication. What results is a game that is woefully unbalanced and as unpleasant to look at as it is to imagine someone enjoying, let alone yourself. All of this in a game that is at version 1.4.5. Don’t you remember when Minecraft was 9 bucks, and already felt like a complete game at version .5? Those days may be gone, my friend. This isn’t even a box beta. This is a box graphics test.