Being a good nanny is tough work. Gwen, though, seems to be a natural. In fact, taking care of the little ones is so second-nature to her, she gets invited to Fantasy Town to help care for all sorts of unique families. From robots to frogs, plants to undersea critters, Gwen uses her magical abilities to keep the young ones happy and fed through dozens of levels. Gwen the Magic Nanny pours on the creativity in a simple but alluring time management game from Namco.
Your basic goal is to tire the little ones out so each can be put to bed. Kids naturally lose energy as the day goes by, but dropping them off in the play area makes this happen more quickly. When a bubble appears over a child's head, meet its needs as quickly as you can or suffer the consequences of a cranky baby.
Each family has its own unique house layout and the children have different needs. The McKannics, for example, are robots who need food cubes, oil, and the occasional run through the cleaning machine. The frog family, on the other hand, needs flies and worms. The basic set-up for each family will be mostly the same, so you don't have to re-learn childcare every time the scenery changes.
Gwen has access to a shop that lets her upgrade abilities, allowing you to walk faster and perform certain tasks at a quicker pace. You can also unlock spells to cast, something of an unusual inclusion for a time management game. Kids all getting cranky? There's a spell for that. Can't collect all the floating magic points on the stage? There's a spell for that, too.
Here's a nice little bonus: extra objectives for each level. Your main goal is always to keep the children happy until they're tuckered out and ready for sleep. You'll also have objectives that send you on hidden object-style quests to locate certain items throughout the scene. Find three fish, hunt down all the robot parts, locate each dragonfly, etc. Just a little extra spice to shake up the gameplay a bit.
Analysis: Gwen the Magic Nanny will catch you by surprise. What appears an unassuming time management game on the surface quickly reveals a deep wellspring of creativity. The artwork for this game is phenomenal, presenting a pseudo-50s-style color scheme and line character with a touch of modern flair for good measure. The characters, while sometimes stiffly animated, are filled with personality and charm, and even the cutscenes will summon an amused smile to your face. Without this stellar visual and audio presentation (seriously, the music in the McKannics stage is crazy catchy), Gwen the Magic Nanny would only be half the game it currently is.
The controls for Gwen the Magic Nanny seem a bit obtuse at first. Many items need to be crafted before you can use them. In order to do that, you'll have to activate a machine, grab the resulting product to stash it in your inventory, click the inventory, and finally place the item where it needs to go. It's a bit of a run-around for a simple task, but you learn to cope after a few levels. The zooming and scrolling are also a bit awkward, as you can never really find the "right" point of view and must constantly switch back and forth, all without the help of keyboard shortcuts.
One thing time management games normally fail to do is provide any reason to continue playing after an hour or two. The later levels tend to be stale and repetitive, as the creativity ran out during the first third of the game. Gwen the Magic Nanny doesn't suffer from this at all, providing wonderful incentives to continue playing far into the game. Most of the time you can't wait to see what the next family is like!
A surprise hit on many levels, Gwen the Magic Nanny provides several hours of amazingly creative time management gaming. Soak in the interesting characters, scope that stylish artwork, and get a little babysitting done while you do so!