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Growtopia

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Growtopia Game Poster Image
2D online crafting game tempts kids to spend lots of money.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can build digital creations and collaborate with friends. The game's tools aren't entirely intuitive, but with practice and dedication, players can leverage them to build not just objects, buildings, and entire worlds, but also games within the game, giving them a sense of what it's like to be a game designer.

Positive Messages

The sandbox design promotes creativity, nudging kids to use their imagination to build novel objects and experiences. Text chat encourages players to freely communicate and cooperate. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Players will encounter plenty of other human-controlled avatars, some of whom will be helpful and cooperative, others of whom are bound to troll or otherwise work against the player or group's efforts.

Ease of Play

Confusing button mapping and tricky-to-access tutorials and objectives make learning how to play harder than necessary. But once players have a sense of the basics, it becomes easier to build and share content.

Violence

Expect a lot of punching with oversized fists, mostly to break items down into collectible resources. Players can also equip themselves with a variety of weapons, including a shotgun and a rifle, to defend against enemies such as zombies and criminals. The graphics are very low-fidelity, and there's no blood or gore; enemies simply disappear, angel-like ghosts rising from their bodies.

Sex
Language

In-game text contains no profanity, though players may encounter swearing creatively crafted by other players to get around text censors.

Consumerism

Players can spend hundreds of dollars in the in-game store, where special and unique items -- including clothing, building materials, world locks, and more -- are for sale. Even simple upgrades -- such as additional backpack storage space -- must be purchased with the game's currency.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

In-game items include alcohol and tobacco products.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Growtopia is an online building game for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PCs. Players inhabit two-dimensional worlds, harvesting resources to craft new things from hills and houses to complete worlds in which they can create games and stories. Depending on the worlds they create and visit and items they purchase, players may encounter some violence. Guns can be used to attack enemies such as zombies, but the graphics are very rudimentary and there's no blood or gore. Online play encourages kids to interact and cooperate with one another, learning from and being inspired by each other. Parents should be aware, though, that players are also encouraged to spend money -- and potentially a lot of it -- in the game's store, where they can buy everything from unique items and rare building materials to VIP passes and backpack upgrades. Note, too, that there's a steep learning curve at the start thanks to confusing button mapping and some difficult-to-follow tutorials and objectives.

User Reviews

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What's it about?

GROWTOPIA is a multiplatform crafting game in which players build and share two-dimensional worlds with the community. It begins with players plopped into a shared space with a handful of initial tutorial objectives. These include punching stuff to break it into usable resources, planting seeds in the ground to grow harvestable blocks and items, and buying and using locks to keep other players from messing around with your world if you don't want them to. Then players are free to do whatever they like, using their imaginations to build everything from castles and lakes to interactive challenges involving running, jumping, mazes, and combat. Players can work together while building, using a text chat window to communicate and collaborate with others. While it's relatively easy to collect many of the resources needed to create basic structures and worlds, other resources -- including rare seeds, blocks, weapons, clothing and other items -- may need to be purchased from the in-game store using gems bought with real-world money. Players must also spend gems to increase their backpack storage and purchase themed item packs necessary to build certain types of worlds.

Is it any good?

Hurdles must be overcome in order to have fun with this game, and some come with a price tag, with the first hurdle being the first hour of play. Growtopia begins by unceremoniously plopping players into a world with little in the way of easily accessible guidance (you need to figure out how to use the Growtopia manual in your inventory) and a strangely confusing control scheme that assigns unexpected functions to action buttons, triggers, and control sticks. But stick with it long enough and you'll overcome these quirks, at which point you may discover that it's actually pretty easy to harvest resources, build things, make doors, edit signs, and do all sorts of other fun creative stuff. Like other crafting and building games, the only limit to what you can create in this 2D sandbox is your imagination. And few such games make it easier to join up with and collaborate with friends -- even those playing on different platforms.

Unfortunately, you may soon encounter a second hurdle even steeper than the first: Money. While it's easy to build basic things (so long as you're willing to wait for the necessary resources to grow once you've planted them) the most tantalizing stuff costs money. There are dozens of packs and item sets that allow players to do everything from recruiting dragons and riding tiny horses to creating their own themed games and stories. Even some basic, necessary stuff -- such as expanding the very limited amount of storage in your backpack or using locks to safeguard your worlds from griefers -- has a price tag. Some players will be able to get away with spending only a little to sate their creative appetites, but others could wind up spending hundreds of dollars to access and obtain everything they want to be able to build with. Growtopia provides plenty of opportunity for players to create and cooperate, but it doesn't make it as simple or inexpensive as one might hope or anticipate.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about cyberbullying. Growtopia is set entirely within an online community, so what precautions do you take to avoid being bullied online? If, despite your precautions, you still end up getting bullied, what steps would you take to rectify the situation?

  • Where do creative ideas come from? Are they simply the result of combining things we've experienced in some new way, or are there legitimate cases in which we create things from scratch that no one else has ever imagined?

Game details

  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
  • Subjects: Language & Reading: following directions
    Hobbies: building, gardening
  • Skills: Creativity: imagination, making new creations, producing new content
    Self-Direction: goal-setting, work to achieve goals
    Communication: conveying messages effectively
    Collaboration: cooperation, meeting challenges together, teamwork
    Tech Skills: digital creation
  • Price: $(with in-game purchases)
  • Pricing structure: Free (Free to download and start playing, but many items require players to spend real-world money.)
  • Available online? Available online
  • Developer: UbiSoft
  • Release date: July 17, 2019
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • ESRB rating: E10+ for Fantasy Violence, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco
  • Last updated: July 25, 2019

For kids who love making

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