Kerbal Space Program

 

Learning(i)

Rocket-building sim helps determined kids reach the stars.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Kerbal Space Program encourages problem solving and perseverance through building and testing.

Positive role models

Players' ships are crewed by courageous astronauts, who don't feature prominently in the game.

Ease of play

It's fairly easy to play casually with rockets, but more challenging missions can be very difficult unless you first watch the online video tutorials. Part of this game's draw is the robust online community of support.

Violence

Rockets can explode, causing the non-human astronauts to disappear, but death is not shown.

Sex
Not applicable
Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable
Privacy & safety

Some privacy and safety concerns. Players might want to go to the game's support forums -- linked from the main menu -- to watch video tutorials and discuss strategies. These forums are moderated (for example, swear words are censored), but kids might encounter offensive content. You don't have to register to watch and read resources, but you do if you want to write comments and post questions.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Kerbal Space Program is a space-themed engineering simulation that focuses on creativity and trial and error. It allows kids to build and test rocket ships using a highly visual creation tool similar to Spore's creature creator. The ships are crewed by little green astronauts, who do not feature prominently in the game. Many launches end in catastrophe and explosions. Most often the astronauts survive, but sometimes they disappear. Death is not directly depicted.

What kids can learn

Subjects

Science

  • momentum
  • motion
  • physics

Hobbies

  • building

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • prediction
  • problem solving
  • applying information
  • hypothesis-testing

Creativity

  • developing novel solutions
  • making new creations

Self-Direction

  • work to achieve goals
  • effort
  • goal-setting

Emotional Development

  • persevering

Tech Skills

  • digital creation

Engagement, Approach, Support

Engagement

Engagement will vary depending on temperament. Kids who love solving problems and who enjoy trial-and-error learning will easily spend hours on the game.

Learning Approach

Kids acquire and creatively apply math, physics, and engineering knowledge by designing, constructing, and launching rockets.

Support

In-game tutorials provide basic instruction. Online videos and forums are easily accessible and have been created by a rich and active player community.

What kids can learn

Subjects

Science

  • momentum
  • motion
  • physics

Hobbies

  • building

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • prediction
  • problem solving
  • applying information
  • hypothesis-testing

Creativity

  • developing novel solutions
  • making new creations

Self-Direction

  • work to achieve goals
  • effort
  • goal-setting

Emotional Development

  • persevering

Tech Skills

  • digital creation

Players select rocket ship parts, assemble them in a hangar, and then launch their rockets to see how they perform. Kids can set specific goals, such as getting into orbit or reaching a moon. Underlying the construction and flight phases is a solid simulation that utilizes astrodynamics and physics, and players who take the time to observe flight read-outs and use the provided controls to affect a ship’s trajectory will learn the fundamentals of rocket science and realistic, modern-day space flight.

This Learning Rating review was written by Mark Chen

What's it about?

KERBAL SPACE PROGRAM is like a NASA simulator except it takes place in a fictional star system on the planet Kerbin. Players purchase various rocket parts such as engines and fuel canisters, put them together, and then see if they can get their ships into orbit, to one of Kerbin’s two moons, or even to another planet. The star system closely resembles our solar system, but the planet is populated with cute little green men reminiscent of the minions in Despicable Me.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Kerbal Space Program will be fun for determined, science-loving kids who can take the time to observe flight read-outs and use the provided controls to tinker with trajectory. They will learn the fundamentals of rocket science and realistic, modern-day space flight. Though the amount of feedback can be overwhelming, the player community on the game's forums and on YouTube is robust and helpful and provides a rich resource for self-directed learning.

The game is still in alpha, so not all the features are in place yet. Players can and do provide feedback and feature suggestions. When the final game is ready, it will sport a career mode with a series of missions, a limited parts-buying budget, and a personnel manager. Right now, the game is a sandbox, meaning that players set their own challenges. What emerge are unique, self-designed experiences that nicely highlight the trials and tribulations of space flight.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how this game is designed to encourage trial-and-error problem solving.

  • Are simulations that are focused on building and creating more or less fun than violent games?

  • How can you protect your identity and privacy when/if you participate in Kerbal Space Program's online community? 

Game details

Platforms:Linux, Mac, Windows
Price:$22.99, free demo
Pricing structure:Free to Try, Paid
Available online?Available online
Developer:Squad
Release date:June 24, 2011
Genre:Simulation
Topics:Space and aliens
ESRB rating:NR (Linux, Mac, Windows)

This review of Kerbal Space Program was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 13 years old Written byMath02u3 October 12, 2013
age 7+
 

Great game; worth your money.

Firstly, the negative factors. Violence may be a concern for some, due to the fact that engine malfunctions may cause explosions which kill "kerbals," who prudently populate Kerbin, the planet where the kerbals live. Kerbals are also able to fall from vehicles to death, in which there is a slight puff of smoke. Blood/gore is not represented at all. However, this game allows children to explore physics and try to reach the stars. It's not easy—just getting into orbit is a tough, intense task. But this allows for many hours of playing time. There's no multiplayer aspect, which makes sure that there's no issues with language or other factors. No purchases are "pushed" beyond getting the game; another product called "the kerbalizer" is available but strictly optional.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Kid, 10 years old March 11, 2014
age 8+
 
LEARNING

Ksp: fun, good and sometimes furstrating.

this game is very fun, but your kids must not freak out that they can't do it (it took me over 20 tries to get into orbit.) you will learn some physics, yet it is still fun. currently (V.0.23.0.365, which is basicly 0.23) the touritalls are old, which don't help (will be reworked in the next update). I played it for 5 months and i have went to jool and made a moon collony (jool is a planet in the game). it is recommened to watch scott manley's videos on ksp. this game has many mods just for you to know. you want to watch before you play this game. overall this is a bad review but the game is still very fun and can be very hard.
Kid, 10 years old January 10, 2014
age 12+
 

kerbal space program

its a fun game and i learned a lot from it
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass