Where's the hook in a game about a tough, thankless, even minimum-wage job? In Nanny Mania, you play a nanny—and not a sinister British nanny, or Zoe Baird's nanny, but a sturdy, unflappable woman who cleans up after a four-kid brood while mom and dad watch TV, strew clothes all over the floor, and track muddy footprints down the foyer. With a click of the mouse, you send the nanny racing from one pile of filth to the next.
If you take away the sweat and smells of a real nanny gig, the work is addictive. It's also limited, repetitive, and intensely stressful. Taking a page from the mega-hit Diner Dash—the same idea, but with waitresses—Nanny Mania hooks players with a fast-paced routine and just enough strategy to cook up on the fly. Can you make it to the nursery and back in time to catch the end of the spin cycle, thus shaving a few seconds off your record laundry time? And nothing leaks out of these diapers: The nastiest mess goes away with a single click, and the reward at the end of each round is a perfectly clean house.
Beyond the game: Nowadays, one of the biggest differences between budget games and their upmarket cousins is that the cheaper games are harder. The high-class gamers playing Oblivion on their HDTVs can take hours to wander the hills and redecorate their horses, but in Nanny Mania, every second counts as you finish your chores before some kid makes a brand-new mess. Choice, independence, and even downtime are for the gamers who can afford it—and lower-rent players have to settle for obeying the rules and fighting the system as they struggle for the highest score.
Worth playing for: Stick with the game, and you'll get to take the role of the husband—who has to pay for every mud stain and messy dresser drawer he ever left for someone else to clean. Of course, the mind-numbing repetition will chase most players away before they get that far.
Frustration sets in when: You can't shake the babies.
Final judgment: Fun, casual game about doing the laundry for homemakers taking a break from doing the laundry.