Review – Baby Shark: Sing & Swim Party
I remember when I first got my hands on the PlayStation 5. It was a new world full of opportunities. I was going to play Demon’s Souls‘ remake, Dirt 5, Astro’s Playroom, and there were games like Ratchet & Clank and Returnal on the horizon. I was excited to see what the next generation of gaming consoles would bring me over the next few years. Graphics! Immersive experiences! Motion controls! Less than three years later, I would be betrayed by my own expectations, for my PSN profile is now forever tarnished with a badge of dishonor: trophies for the PlayStation 5 version of Baby Shark: Sing & Swim Party. This is what we deserve for treating the world so poorly: a Baby Shark game exists.
In Apocalypse Now, Colonel Kurtz’s final words are “the horror, the horror”, a dark realization about the bitter and absolute truth of his life. A grim expression despair at the realization that, beneath an exterior of civilized human behaviour, lies the potential for savagery. Playing Baby Shark: Sing & Swim Party for a few hours, and putting my eardrums to the exposition of that rancid theme song that, somehow, kickstarted a BILLION DOLLAR franchise, made me feel the same feelings. Humanity has failed this world, and this is what we deserve for everything we have done over the past centuries of colonialism, environmental destruction, polar cap melting, vaccine denial. The thing that, at a point, was just a (very miserable) free YouTube video, is now a game being sold for your hard-earned salary, which your kids will want. And you will have to say yes. And play with them.
So, what is Baby Shark: Sing & Swim Party? The game starts off with a cutscene, where the titular Baby Shark receives a letter (somehow, intact, despite being underwater), with an invitation for a festival. He then convinces his entire family, comprised of different-colored sharks, as well as an older shark who possesses facial hair, to attend said festival. Instead of, I dunno, calling an Uber or just swimming there as quickly as possible, the family stops by every few minutes to perform in two different types of event, which are basically the bulk of what this game has to offer: singing and swimming.
Whenever the game tells you to “sing”, thankfully, you don’t have to. This is when Baby Shark: Sing & Swim Party becomes a rhythm game, one which only uses the four face buttons on the DualSense, with very little challenge or creativity in display. This is meant for a demographic so young they are probably unable to read, so this makes sense. There is no numerical score, just a handful of starfish which represent how well (or not) you’ve just performed. The more starfish you collect, the more cards you earn, which can then be seen in an album. What do these cards do? Nothing. You just look at them. It’s almost like a metaphor to the whole blockchain/NFT craze of yesteryear.
The overall gameplay loop of the “singing” sections of Baby Shark: Sing & Swim Party wouldn’t have been an issue if it wasn’t for the music accompanying the gameplay. The game pulls no punches: the first damn song you are told to play is the stupid Baby Shark theme song, and dear lord, is it a rancid piece of music. But there’s a lot more. You’re getting the full Baby Shark experience, complete with other songs like “Baby Shark Tail” (I would have preferred a song called “Baby Shark Fin Soup”, but that’s just me) and “Baby Sharkcito”. You read that right. It’s a Baby Shark “Despacito”. We deserve the punishment.
That’s the odd thing about this game. The gameplay, though basic as all hell, can occasionally get a bit complex for the demographic young enough to actually not despise the Baby Shark theme song with all their hearts. Those who can play it, will hate listening to it. This is not even a “generational” complaint, a “boomer” not getting what the little ones like. Hell, I actually really enjoyed Gigantosaurus despite being aimed at kids a tenth of my age. The music in this Baby Shark game is just bad. There were times I was legitimately playing some of it on mute whilst blasting “Redneck” by Lamb of God on my PC’s speakers to cheer me up.
Now, for the “swimming” sections. Those are exponentially more entertaining than the “singing” sections. These levels are autorunners, in which you are tasked with collecting starfish whilst avoiding a sheer ludicrous amount of obstacles trying to hurt you. Blowfish want to sting you. Anchors keep falling from above to smack you. Swordfish and electric eels show up from out of nowhere to hinder your progress. Half of the ocean’s fauna, and some of humanity’s tools, want to see the poor Baby Shark seriously hurt. They get me.
But I won’t lie, these sections were, ever so rarely, somewhat entertaining, if only because they were actually way more challenging than expected for a game aimed at three year-olds. It wasn’t anything impossible, mind you (I was three-starring everything with one hand), but considering the fact I was expecting for the same level of challenge seen in the Peppa Pig game released a while back, this was a borderline positive surprise. Sadly, it’s still beyond repetitive, because all you do is collect starfish, and the occasional card. Often times, you might earn a cosmetic as a bonus. I was able to give a pair of Kanye shades to my infant fish.
And this is what you will do until the very end of Baby Shark: Sing & Swim Party. Play a rhythm section, then a swimming section, often with the same song being played in the back. Every now and then, you will be graced with a fully animated cutscene where something not worth remembering is shown onscreen. I will give credit where credit is due, however: the game does look exactly like every single other Baby Shark video on YouTube. It is not particularly visually impressive (the animation and character design are hideous, to say the least), but the developers did manage to retain the, uh, “spirit” of the source material.
There is a problem, however. Well, there are a lot of problems, and I’ve already mentioned them in excruciating detail, but there is another major problem: the game can be too damn long for the target demographic. Baby Shark: Sing & Swim Party is a game where, granted, the parents will unlock most of the content for the kids (they can then listen to all unlocked songs in a separate mode), but the damn thing just goes on forever. There are dozens upon dozens of levels, scattered through so many worlds.
In any other game, having too much content would be considered a positive, but we are talking about a demographic with a really short attention span, who will get bored after a while. Baby Shark: Sing & Swim Party is extremely repetitive, so even if the kids are already able to hold a DualSense and play the game, they will get fed up with the borderline simplistic and never-changing controls. Hey, they are young, but not stupid. The parents are the ones who will have to play the damn thing to the end in order to unlock all content for their kids, and my goodness, they won’t have a good time doing so. This is the type of game where everything should have been unlocked from the get-go, party mode-style. I appreciate the efforts of coming up with a story mode, but did it need to go on for so long?
Just by reading the name of the title, you can already expect that Baby Shark: Sing & Swim Party isn’t a good time. Granted, it is not the worst thing in the world, and not even the worst game made for toddlers out there (Race with Ryan exists, after all), but it is a boring, shallow, repetitive experience that goes on for way too long, featuring some of the worst musical compositions these poor ears have ever endured. If your kids like this franchise, just give them a tablet and make them watch the Baby Shark theme song on repeat until they fall asleep. This might not be broken or incompetently-made, but just save yourself forty bucks and spend them on something else. Maybe on noise-cancelling headphones, for starters.
It looks like Baby Shark, I’ll give them that. Kids will like how similar this game looks to the source material, as visually bland as it may be.
Both the rhythm and “swimming” sections are stupidly basic, meant for the youngest of toddlers to be able to play. They are also incredibly shallow and repetitive.
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo…
It might provide a few minutes of joy to its target demographic, but its structure and repetitiveness won’t be able to grasp their attention for much longer. It’s also grossly overpriced for what it offers, meaning that it’s easier to simply put an iPad in front of your kids and let them listen to that damn thing on their own.
Final Verdict: 4.0
Baby Shark: Sing & Swim Party is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC, and Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on PS5.
A copy of Baby Shark: Sing & Swim Party was provided by the publisher.