However you feel about the viral “sensation” that is Pinkfong’s Baby Shark, there’s no denying that Outright Games’ Baby Shark: Sing and Swim Party does a great job of translating the colourful, musical YouTube videos into a family-friendly video game. Our main reservation, however, is that the gameplay on offer here doesn’t quite match up with the target age range of Baby Shark.
Three to five year-olds seems to be the core audience of Baby Shark; by the time kids are school age, they’ve more than likely grown out of singing songs about Baby, Mommy, Daddy, Grandma and Grandpa Shark. It’s unfortunate, then, that we’d wager most kids under five are going to struggle playing Baby Shark: Sing and Swim Party as intended. Sorry, parents and older siblings: we’re going to guess you’re probably going to be on the hook for playing through the game.
There are two types of levels in Baby Shark: Sing and Swim Party – rhythm levels and runner levels that see you dodging obstacles and collecting stars. The runner levels can easily be enjoyed by children of any age: you take direct control of a shark, moving left, right, up and down through a short level filled with various obstacles. As you progress through the game, however, these levels do get trickier, with more obstacles being thrown your way, sometimes making it very difficult to pick up everything and avoid taking damage. It doesn’t matter, though: there’s no penalty for getting hit.
It’s the rhythm levels that we feel are out of place in a game for small children. These are surprisingly tricky, with notes coming rather quickly and requiring a level of hand-eye co-ordination that we feel most three and four-year-olds just haven’t developed yet. The user interface doesn’t help, either, being rather drab. In any case, without being in direct control of a character, these levels are unlikely to hold young players’ attention. Again, there’s no real penalty for missing notes, but each level rewards a score out of three stars on completion. Later levels in the game are gated with a star requirement, and so if you don’t perform well enough in at least some of the levels, your progress will be halted.
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What Baby Shark: Sing and Swim Party does get right, however, is its visuals. It looks wonderful, aping the animation style of the videos it’s based on perfectly. Its bold and bright animation style is sure to capture the attention of youngsters, and even if they can’t play the levels well, they’ll undoubtedly enjoy watching the short cutscenes in between every levels.
There’s also a surprising amount of content here. There’s approximately 30 songs to play along to and unlock as you go, with most songs having both a rhythm level and an accompanying runner level. Levels are only a minute or two long, though, which feels like the ideal length to hold a child’s attention (and ensures no rendition of Baby Shark goes on for too long for supervising adults). That is the downside, though: if you’ve already been subjected to Baby Shark content then you know that most of the songs are essentially the same. And these earworms are going to eat away at your mind long after the game’s been turned off.
Outside of levels, players can visit an album filled with collectible cards and a sticker book. Neither serve any purpose other than providing objects to collect as you play. You’ll also find outfits to dress up the five characters in the game (Baby Shark, plus Mommy, Daddy, Grandma and Grandpa) and once you’ve played a song’s rhythm level, you can then play the song back – complete with lyrics – whenever you’d like from the ‘Extras’ menu. All in all, it makes a rather full package for Baby Shark lovers.
We’re pleasantly surprised by the quality and amount of content in Baby Shark: Sing and Swim Party. This isn’t just some branded cash grab; it’s clear a lot of love and effort has gone into bringing Pinkfong’s massive brand to the world of video games. It’s just a shame that there’s some discrepancy between the target audience of Baby Shark and the difficulty pitch of the game: just as children are old enough to properly play the game for themselves, they’ll likely have lost interest in the colourful singing sharks.