By the time this article is posted, my second child will finally be here. The little bugger was 2 weeks overdue, but he finally arrived, and it was during this extended overtime that I decided what I was going to write my latest article on; babies! Specifically, babies in gaming. There’s been popular ones out there, some that were easily forgettable, and of course, the nightmare fuelled babies. Let’s be honest, babies in the dark are amongst the scariest things ever, especially if they laugh. Needless to say, we will of course be discussing the Silent Hill series here.
BE WARNED: THERE WILL BE SOME GRAPHIC / CREEPY IMAGES FOUND IN THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE!!!
I think as good a place as any to start would be from the beginning; the birth. Two games in particular really came to mind when I thought of this stage; Fallout 3 and Assassin’s Creed 2. Fallout 3 has you begin the game literally in the womb. Presented with just a heartbeat, a blood splatter follows and you are then thrust into the new world, over the moon to find Liam Neeson is your father. The voice-acting is a little hammy in the new-scene as Neeson sounds like he is new to the VO business, but it’s a well-done introduction to a game that effectively allows you to truly live a life from birth to death.
Assassin’s Creed 2 follows in the same vein, being born to the world. Difference with this little fella’ is that you control him immediately when held in the arms of his proud father. It’s also a little odd to watch. Like an awkward silence envelopes the room while you learn how to move your legs and arms by pressing the various buttons on the game pad. It’s a weird almost awkward scene to ‘play’ through but none-the-less it’s certainly one of the more unique tutorials you’ll have ever played through.
Both these games showed babies being truly loved by their parents, this isn’t always the case though. Some children are just not meant to be cherished, least of all the demonic beasts found in Splatterhouse 2 on the SEGA Mega Drive / Genesis. Reach the end of level 3 and you’ll encounter 4, what can only be described as grown foetuses, all hanging by their necks from the ceiling, and you with a chainsaw ready to unleash havoc. 16-bit violence doesn’t shock so much these days as it once would have but even now, this is definitely a rare instance of such a scenario which would surely still cause absolute mayhem with the censors and SJWs of today.
I mentioned Silent Hill at the start of this piece; let’s get into it. The Twin Victims. A cloaked ‘thing’ with two baby heads. Now, I am not one of these obsessives who over-analyse the hell out of everything to do with the SH games. Lord knows there’s so much ambiguous material here you could probably spend a lifetime trying to work it out. So I certainly have no definitive answer for what the hell this thing is. I could hypothesise from the name and the look of the thing that it probably represents one of the antagonists victims, but it’s been so long since I played Silent Hill 4: The Room that I’m not going to pretend to remember what this abomination was all about. It says a lot though that nearly 10 years after first playing it, these guys stood out enough that I never forgot about them. Poor darlings. They’re terrifying. They point at you and make these weird grunts. And then start to lunge at you with their arms which are essentially acting as their legs. That point though. That silent horrible point which seems to last forever.
Babies don’t necessarily have to be a visual on-screen for them to leave a mark though. Anyone who has played Doom on the Playstation 1 will know exactly where I’m going with this. Featuring a soundtrack created by one Aubrey Hodges, the PS1 version of Doom is by far the best iteration of this classic if you want the absolute most scary experience with this bad boy. Fools will argue the PC version is the no.1 version of Doom but you only have to hear the unbelievable work done by Hodges for the PS1 game to know there was something special going on here. It’s an unsettling set of audio tracks to listen to, and the fear is ramped up exponentially when you suddenly hear babies crying in the background of one level. It’s what the phrase ‘Nightmare Fuel’ was designed for. I managed to ask Aubrey himself what the hell he was thinking of when he added the baby cries to the song, and he replied:
I decided to add the babies crying sample because I had a feeling that hearing that sample in that type of environment would be incredibly upsetting and provide a sense of urgency to the player. In general, I hint at the actual sound source and it’s hard to tell that what you are hearing is actually babies crying. However there are a few moments where it is pretty clear. The idea of something so innocent and so vulnerable as a baby in that hellish landscape really does hit on some basic instincts we all have as protectors of our offspring and defenders of the weak. – Aubrey Hodges, Apr. 2017
It’s enough to be playing PS1 Doom, with the lights off and headphones on, nervous enough as it is whilst you’re taking on the legions of Hell listening to it’s hellish sound. But when you’re more than ten levels into the game and suddenly hear babies crying, shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit. An awesome experience all the same, and if you’ve never heard the tune in question, check it out:
We continue with our theme of evil babies and are now met by the rampaging stomping beats of the Titanic Toddler of Zombies Ate My Neighbours. Possibly the first classic baby that comes to mind where video-games are concerned as the guy leaves such an impression. I mean look at him, he’s forty freakin’ feet tall for Christ sake! He pounds around at a ridiculously fast speed, throwing milk at you and attempting to stomp the living daylights out of you. There’s very little in the way of pickups that will help you take down this behemoth, so ensure you have your strongest powers to hand, the monster potion being a personal favourite of mine.
Before leaving the dark side of the baby world, let’s take a look at Among the Sleep. Placing you in the sleepsuit of a toddler, this little man just wants to go exploring his bedroom. Interacting with his toys and hiding in the closet all seems like an average day. Until the one day that the closet no longer has a back to it… and you find yourself wandering down the rabbithole, so to speak. Suddenly, everything goes miserably dark, you find yourself being creeped out by the slightest of movements / sounds and you also now have to contend with a giant tree-like monster who is seemingly on the prowl for his next victim.
And through all this, you’re just an innocent baby. If you pause the game, the baby raises his hands to his eyes in a peek-a-boo fashion. Crawling on all fours gets you round faster than walking does, just like a baby / toddler finding his feet in the world. There’s so many little cool touches like that that really immerse you into the world of Among the Sleep that it feels a real shame when the game goes a bit too down the far end of the crazy spectrum, and you yearn for the creepiness of the house from the beginning of the game. Just keep that teddy bear helper away from me, that guy is the freakin’ creeps.
Let’s head back into the land of fluffy clouds and pastel blue painted walls. Donkey Kong Jr. is surely one of the earliest instances of the player assuming the role of a toddler, albeit in ape form. It’s a funny one too as you play DK Jr. who’s attempting to save his pops, the original DK, from Mario who has the original ape legend imprisoned in a cage. Same formula as Donkey Kong here, avoid the obstacles, jump along the platforms and reach the top to give Mario a good kicking. Standard.
A little less standard is Chuck Rock 2: Son of Chuck. Still following a similar plot to DK Jr in which Chuck Jr. has to go save his dad Chuck Rock, but it’s a full blown platform game with some awesome sized bosses for its time. Released on all Sega consoles in the early 90s as well as the Amiga, it was generally received well by the critics. This baby doesn’t mess about. Taking his stone club around with him, Chuck Jr. is the videogame equivalent of the Flintstones’ Bam Bam. He bashes the shit out of everything, takes on bosses which fill nearly the entire screen, and it’s all presented by some wonderful animation which would have been considered impressive in 1993. Definitely worth a go if you can find the little bugger, though fans of the series would argue that the first one is superior to the baby-led sequel.
Finally, I thought we should wrap up the article with inarguably the most popular videogame baby of them all; Baby Mario. He should never have been seen as a long-term character, having debuted in Yoshi’s Island as a permanent artefact on Yoshi’s saddle throughout the game. Yoshi needed to return him to his parents, who already had Baby Luigi waiting patiently for his missing brother’s return. But this really was a cameo. Baby Mario did nowt throughout the game with the rare exception where if the star power-up was found, you could control Baby Mario on his own for a very limited amount of time before being returned back to Yoshi’s form. Otherwise, he was pretty much the main reason you could lose lives in the game as when Yoshi took a hit, Baby Mario would begin to float away in a bubble, crying his poor eyes out hoping to return to Yoshi. A countdown would appear and if it reached 0, Baby Mario would be whisked away by Kamek’s minions and a life would be lost.
This debut cameo would eventually lead to Baby Mario being featured in further Yoshi’s Island series games, the Mario Kart series, Mario Golf / Tennis / Baseball, and of course the severely under-appreciated Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, which features Baby Mario and Luigi partnering up with their adult counterparts in a battle against some one-off alien race. The game is recognised mostly for its humour which is very tongue in cheek, but there’s also a solid (if a little easy) RPG to be found here. It’s impressive that despite a lack of character, at least aside from the usual baby mannerisms, Baby Mario and Luigi for that matter, have managed to now survive 20 years in the land of games. They really deserve their own game now, and not some trash 3DS baby management game like the DS was plagued with.
And boy was the DS plagued… Sony didn’t allow the PSP game library to be come overloaded with baby games, why did Nintendo allow it to happen?? Sure they were aiming for the family friendly market and it certainly worked, but if you visit any second hand distributor of video games today, you’ll find a fuck-ton of DS baby games that really were just unnecessary. I mean really, check out the below image:
That is ridiculous. I hope to God we don’t find ourselves in another shovelware period again because that whole DS, Wii, PS2 period was depressing with how much tat was released. Nintendo; no more baby games PLEASE.
And so ends my look at babies in video games. I believe they have a place in there for sure, despite how ‘limited’ their little frames may be. Baby Mario shows babies aren’t to be messed with, as does Chuck Jr. There were also countless other babies we could have looked at but how many little darlings do you want me to write about before you start getting broody? And no, Bob the putto from Messiah doesn’t count so he can frig’ right off.
As for the birth of a new baby, my son Wilson pretty much guarantees he’ll get some quality father-son time… as long as he’s happy lying down on my chest while I have my XBox 1 pad in hand. If he’s anything like my other boy Calvin though, he’ll find more joy in the classics like Sonic the Hedgehog series on the Mega Drive, and Young Merlin on the SNES. I give him a Xbox 1 pad and he hates the size of it. That’s ma’ boy
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