Save the Park

App review by
Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Media
Save the Park App Poster Image
Great cause to support, but tedious endless runner.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can learn about the national parks and the work that goes into taking care of them. Fun facts present tidbits about park history, unique features, park founders and activists, and more. Each park ranger has a collection of related tasks, such as plant care, managing park visitors, or watching out for an animal's well-being. By seeing this list, kids may learn a bit about all the different things rangers do to help keep the parks healthy, though the game itself is repetitive and doesn't really connect to the information. Kids can get some good hand-eye-coordination practice as they maneuver not one but two rangers across the screen. The best hope with Save the Park is that kids may nurture an appreciation for nature and an interest in visiting and helping maintain the national parks.

Ease of Play

May take time to get the coordination right in both hands to move the two characters on the screen, but simple after that.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Save the Park is an endless runner game developed by the National Park Service and a corporate sponsor designed to get kids excited about and interested in nature. Kids take on the role of park ranger and complete various tasks essential to park upkeep. At the end of each level, kids can share their progress through Facebook or their device's sharing menu; there's no gate that calls on parent help to do this. Kids can also tap out of the game onto the National Park Service website. Since the text isn't read out loud, prereaders will need help. Read the privacy policy for details on how your information is collected and shared.

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What's it about?

Start by choosing a park ranger, then get to work to SAVE THE PARK. Kids use both hands on either side of their device to move the ranger and an assistant up and down as they cross the screen collecting items and avoiding obstacles. Each level represents some task that real park rangers do, such as sampling soil, cataloging butterflies, maintaining trails, or meeting and greeting park guests. Collect hidden objects to earn postcards with natural park scenes and earn stars to unlock more levels, parks (forest, desert, and coastal), and rangers.

Is it any good?

This app has a great goal: Get kids intimately involved in the national parks and show them how beautiful and interesting the parks are. Nice graphic postcards and fun facts help kids appreciate these natural wonderlands. If they visit the National Park Service website, they can learn about volunteering and helping to preserve the parks. The types of tasks these virtual rangers need to perform also give kids an idea of the many ways humans are involved in running the parks, keeping the plants and animals healthy, and managing visitors. Unfortunately, during the review period, the game quit several times, and actual gameplay leaves quite a bit to be desired. Kids may quickly lose interest, as each level is virtually identical: Run through the items to collect, avoid the obstacles. From level to level, the items to collect are often the same, and connections to actual park tasks are only symbolic since the gameplay is always the same. The game would be so much more meaningful if there were actually some way to "collect" soil samples or really "take pictures" of park visitors, rather than simply running through a pile of dirt or a person. So, while the app is free and has some nice features showing how beautiful our national parks are, it's unlikely kids will be impressed with the game itself. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about using technology and screens in balance with other activities, including having fun outdoors. Plant something in the backyard, or make a windowsill garden. Point out trees, insects, or whatever kind of natural life you can find. Even big cities have pockets of nature!

  • Visit the national parks. Help kids research the landscape, the animal life, and more, and then go see it all in person. If you can't get to a major national park, even a small neighborhood park can provide a great natural experience.

  • Talk about the variety of tasks the rangers do to help keep up the parks. What other kinds of work might be important to keep the parks healthy? Have kids ever done anything similar -- in their backyards or in a local neighborhood park?

  • Help kids research and learn more about the history and wonder of our national parks. For instance, kids -- especially older kids -- may enjoy Ken Burns' series, The National Parks: America's Best Idea.

App details

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For kids who love science and nature

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