A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this app.
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.
Products & Purchases
Users can purchase packs of amethysts ($1.99 to $9.99), which help you unlock plants, but you can play without buying anything.
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.
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.
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