Casual games have the unique ability to turn boring, stressful and un-fun tasks into entertainment. Nanny Mania by ToyBox Games follows a formula similar to downloadable games such as Diner Dash and Cake Mania where you play a working woman going through the daily grind in order to make a living. The Mayor of Suburbia and his wife are too busy to cook and clean up after their growing family, so it's your job to straighten furniture, do the laundry, and perform all the little tasks that need to be done during the day. Boring in real life, but Nanny Mania is so well put together you'll have a blast.
Keeping things tidy is remarkably easy: just click on the objects with a yellow outline. You can do things in any order you like, though it's always best to do tasks close by so you don't spend your valuable time running across the house. A checkmark appears on items you've clicked, allowing you to set up a queue of tasks and operate more efficiently. Some tasks have several stages to them such as gathering laundry, putting it in the washing machine and then into the dryer. These are linked together by flashing yellow outlines, keeping the interface as simple and easy to use.
As you enter the house each day a number of chores are waiting for your nanny-like attention. Start gathering the laundry and tend to multi-stage tasks first, then take care of smaller things in-between. As the family moves about the house they create more work for you (especially babies knocking everything over), so keep an eye on everyone as best you can. The day comes to an end when you complete your chores before the time limit runs out. If you're efficient, however, you can finish much sooner than that and earn bonus points.
Analysis: Nanny Mania has a great visual style that feels like a cross between Virtual Villagers and The Sims. The animations are fluid, especially those of the nanny, and sound effects help clue you in on tasks that need to be completed. The interface couldn't be simpler and makes things like cleaning the aquarium far less tedious than one would think.
On the down side, Nanny Mania gets repetitive due to a lack of variety, both in types of chores and in scenery. Something as simple as changing houses would have completely revived the game midway through its 150 levels. The game's difficulty increases as you progress (though it's always a bit too easy) with more family members creating more messes for you to clean. Timing these events to keep things straight gets hectic, but after a few stages you get the distinct "been there, done that" feeling. Even playing as new characters late in the game (the mom and the dad) doesn't change much.
Despite the lack of variety, Nanny Mania is one of the better casual resource management games out there and scores high marks in every other department. Repetition hits after an hour or two of play, but rumored expansions could easily cover up the only blemish on the game's pristine appearance.
Try the online Shockwave version.