T. Rowe Price Star Banks Adventure

App review by
Galen McQuillen, Common Sense Media
T. Rowe Price Star Banks Adventure App Poster Image
Match-3 game about money management not rich in learning.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids will get at the very least some meaningful exposure to financial-management terms and processes, but the game is quite playable and pretty fun without you ever needing to master their real-world meaning. Very basic, early introduction to concepts like interest, budgeting, and investment, but will need adult support for any learning to stick. 

Ease of Play

Controls are easy, and the difficulty and complexity slowly build up, giving the game a gradual learning curve. Game wouldn't start or quit during time of review.

Violence

No animated violence, but implied cartoon violence with references to defeating an enemy and depictions of sci-fi laser guns. 

Sex
Language
Consumerism

Though it's a free game with no overt ads, it's designed to teach capitalism. The core mechanic of the game is completing "jobs" to earn coins, then using those coins to purchase bigger, better rewards or entertainment and dining, which earns energy for power-ups. While the vocabulary in quizzes promotes responsible money management, the overall message is that to win, you have to make money, spend money to get energy, buy things.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that T. Rowe Price Star Banks Adventure is a game designed to teach responsible money management and navigation of the banking industry. It does this through a Candy Crush-style puzzle game where players draw paths through matching shapes and colors to earn coins, which in turn they use to buy items that advance them from level to level. It requires a decent amount of reading and the willingness to ask a grown-up about vocabulary words and financial concepts, which aren't taught but can earn useful rewards in the game. The overwhelming message is one of earning money to pay for goods and services, with the ultimate goal of buying enough things to win the game. Read the app's privacy policy to find out about the types of information collected and shared. 

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What's it about?

T. ROWE PRICE STAR BANKS ADVENTURE is a match-3 game in the spirit of Candy Crush, Bejeweled, or countless other clones with the added twist of investment-banking concepts and vocabulary. In it, players act as a space alien who performs various "jobs" by connecting matching color tiles, which transform into coins. First, kids choose items to work for, all with different prices and quality levels. Players gather the coins into a bank tile, where they earn interest toward a final goal of each level's item. As the game progresses, it introduces more complicated concepts like risky investments, entertainment expenses (which give energy for power-ups but don't contribute to the level's goal), bank transfers, and more. Throughout the game, players can take short quizzes on financial literacy concepts to earn extra moves, though these aren't explicitly taught anywhere. 

Is it any good?

Though this game does introduce some money-management concepts, its lack of information around those ideas, its singular message, and its technical glitches set it back. The core ideal in T. Rowe Price Star Banks Adventure is that true success comes from acquiring material goods and that the point of entertainment is to gain more "energy" to pursue those goods, which gives it kind of a depressing feeling. The financial-literacy quizzes don't truly teach any concepts and usually have two completely ridiculous multiple-choice options and one clear winner -- a form of teaching-by-testing that really doesn't help kids understand anything on a meaningful level. Ultimately, it's entirely possible to breeze through all the game's financial content and just play to win, but paying attention to it gives a narrow view of what a person can do with money that only includes buying things and saving to get more things. If an adult sits with a kid to explain the concepts and expand on the options, it could be one way to start a conversation about money. Unfortunately, during the review period, the app continuously quit upon launch, making it a difficult sell, despite it being free.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about money management and the concept behind T. Rowe Price Star Banks Adventure. This game works best as a conversation starter, so you and your kids can have some fruitful conversations about budgeting, banking, saving, investing, and responsible purchases. 

  • Families also can discuss alternative uses of money that might not involve paying for goods and services. There's little in the game about financial burdens like bills, rent, mortgages, and (especially relevant for today's kids) debt. There's also no suggestion that money can go toward charity, the arts, non-bank-related investments like small businesses, privately held companies, or collectibles.

  • Talk about the money-management choices in your family. How and where do you save money? If your kid gets an allowance, what are some ways they can save, spend, and share?

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