Pocket Plants

App review by
Erin Brereton, Common Sense Media
Pocket Plants App Poster Image
Plant sim has exercise feature but poor instructions.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn about planting, harvesting. Playing encourages them to be patient while plants mature, work toward goals, complete tasks. Because they can earn points by connecting app to pedometer, playing may also inspire them to walk more, adding to fitness level. Although app doesn't go into much detail, mixing/matching plants showcases how hybrids are formed; kids can also view plant names, some of which are real. App would be a better learning experience, though, if it showcased actual plants with more information about them.

Ease of Play

Offers detailed tutorial when you first open it; after that, it's a little hard to find answers to your questions because the FAQ is a jumbled mess of a message board.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff

Users can purchase packs of amethysts ($1.99 to $9.99), which help you unlock plants, but you can play without buying anything.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Pocket Plants features a positive ecological vibe: Kids get to see plants grow and affect the environment around them. It's free to play, but kids can also make an in-app purchase to buy packs of amethysts, the currency used in the game. But you can disable in-app purchases in your device's settings if you wish. Once kids reach a certain level, they're also able to connect to friends, but they don't have to be actual real-life friends -- users can (and do) share each other's game ID number on the app's Facebook page or message board and then enter it manually in the app, which is somewhat of a concern. Otherwise, there's no inappropriate content.

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What's it about?

Billing itself as a plant collection game and pedometer in one, POCKET PLANTS encourages kids to unlock, combine, and grow plants to help the environment and clean up pollution in several climates. Steps can be turned into energy that helps plants grow; users are also given tasks to complete. You can connect with other users and visit each others' gardens; as you advance, you'll move to different worlds, including a desert, sea, zoo, and ice world.

Is it any good?

This plant growing simulation fosters interest in the environment along with exercise, although players will have to deal with unclear instructions and wait times for their garden success. Players still go through the same cycle of unlocking things to advance and moving through different scenes, but in this instance, they're installing plants to help clean up and improve the environment. As an interesting twist, they can connect the app to a fitness tracker, and the steps they take each day will help them progress in the game by providing them with extra gems or plants. The drawbacks to Pocket Plants are the usual suspects: Users can make in-app purchases, but they're not forced to. There's some waiting required on occasion, which kids may not like -- and the tutorial, while detailed, moves too quickly. Plus, once it's over, it's not easy to find again if kids have questions. (Actually, the answers to any questions aren't easy to find. The app's developers would benefit from adding more explanatory information.)

That said, the app's intent and, for the most part, its execution are commendable. Kids are given tasks to complete, which can help foster a sense of responsibility and goal-setting; they combine plants to create new ones, as the scientific community does, and throughout the experience, the idea that the environment is a place to actively pay attention to and protect is reinforced. Parents may still have concerns about screen time -- certainly, the frequency with which plants become available makes that a risk -- but at least they'll know that when kids are playing Pocket Plants, they're getting a bit more substance than they would playing an app that simply encourages them to collect items or attack other characters.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about setting and finishing goals. When was the last time you achieved a goal? How did that feel?

  • The app encourages players to pay attention to the plants' growth and progress, which can require patience and dedication. Does that make you feel frustrated? What benefits can come from having to wait for something to happen?

App details

  • Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
  • Pricing structure: Free
  • Release date: April 27, 2017
  • Category: Strategy Games
  • Size: 299.00 MB
  • Publisher: Kongregate, Inc.
  • Version: 2.1.6
  • Minimum software requirements: Requires iOS 8.1 or later or Android 4.1 and up
  • Last updated: November 30, 2017

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