Kodu Game Lab Game Poster Image

Kodu Game Lab

(i)

 

Learning(i)

Innovative game creator is powerful but hard to learn.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Fosters creativity and a spirit of sharing.

Positive role models

Since you design your own games, there's potential for both positive and negative role models.

Ease of play

This application is not very user-friendly. Players essentially learn how to use a basic game-design application, which means most of their time will be spent learning the software's features and rules. There aren't any interactive tutorials; players must navigate radial menus reading pop-up descriptions for each tool. Much patience is required.

Violence

Nonhuman "bot" characters can be programmed to do things such as shoot missiles, throw rocks, and kick objects. These characters typically disappear in a puff of smoke when defeated.

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

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Kodu is a game-design application. It's found in the Xbox Live user community and is available for download through the online Xbox marketplace or as a free download for the PC through the Microsoft website. The visual-development environment allows players to create their own games from simple snap-together parts, which means the content can vary. That said, options are limited to what's built into the software. For example, players can make "bots" that kick, shoot missiles, and throw rocks, but they can't alter how these projectiles explode or make characters spurt blood. However, there's nothing stopping a player from, say, designing a piece of virtual land that resembles a human body part. Completed levels can be shared with people on your friends list on Xbox Live whereas PC levels are available to share and download online.

What kids can learn

Subjects

Language & Reading

  • following directions
  • storytelling

Math

  • numbers
  • patterns
  • sequences

Arts

  • playing
  • script writing

Hobbies

  • building

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • problem solving
  • decision-making
  • defining problems
  • logic

Creativity

  • brainstorming
  • making new creations
  • producing new content
  • imagination

Self-Direction

  • initiative
  • achieving goals
  • goal-setting
  • work to achieve goals

Emotional Development

  • developing resilience
  • persevering

Communication

  • multiple forms of expression
  • conveying messages effectively

Responsibility & Ethics

  • learning from consequences

Tech Skills

  • digital creation
  • using and applying technology

Engagement, Approach, Support

Engagement

Clickable menus replace written code, so it's easy to jump in and make games. Unfortunately, it's also easy for a new Kodu explorer to get lost.

Learning Approach

The Lego brick approach to coding helps kids grasp some of the harder parts of procedural programming and encourages experimentation, helping kids discover new knowledge and build skills.

Support

Tutorials and an online community provide a good foundation, and there's even a Kodu book for kids who want to dig deep. Curriculum is available for teachers. 

What kids can learn

Subjects

Language & Reading

  • following directions
  • storytelling

Math

  • numbers
  • patterns
  • sequences

Arts

  • playing
  • script writing

Hobbies

  • building

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • problem solving
  • decision-making
  • defining problems
  • logic

Creativity

  • brainstorming
  • making new creations
  • producing new content
  • imagination

Self-Direction

  • initiative
  • achieving goals
  • goal-setting
  • work to achieve goals

Emotional Development

  • developing resilience
  • persevering

Communication

  • multiple forms of expression
  • conveying messages effectively

Responsibility & Ethics

  • learning from consequences

Tech Skills

  • digital creation
  • using and applying technology

When kids learn to program, they must grasp a large array of challenging and interlocking concepts. By focusing on only a subset of programming ideas, Kodu introduces some of the basics and does so through gaming. Linking objects (things in the game) and events (actions), Kodu can lead to a surprisingly broad range of creations. For example, kids can select a rover object and attach an event to it so whenever a specific arrow key is pressed, the rover moves forward. Bingo: the first small step is programmed. It's a satisfying -- albeit a bit difficult -- and instantly gratifying entrance into game-making.

This Learning Rating review was written by David Thomas

What's it about?

KODU GAME LAB isn't a game so much as a tool for making video games. Downloadable from the Xbox user community and online for the PC, Kodu provides players with the ability to design their own environments, create simple objectives (which could include racing, shooting, or adventuring), and alter a surprisingly wide variety of game parameters, such as the behavior of environmental objects and nonplayer characters. Dozens of starter levels are available for experimentation, and many have simple objectives meant to help you figure out what can be done with the software, such as making a character move from one location to another or jump a gap. When you've tinkered enough and have something you think might be fun for others to try, you can share it with friends on Xbox Live or upload to the Kodu site, where other would-be developers can download these interactive creations.

Is it any good?

QUALITY

The simplest way to describe Kodu is to say it offers the same sort of game-making functionality as LittleBigPlanet 2 for PlayStation 3 but with little of the polish or accessibility that made that game so fun and popular. Limited tutorials and text instruction mean it can be slow to get in the swing of things. All the tools have pop-up bubbles that describe what they do, but they must be manually selected to make those bubbles appear, which makes the learning process long and arduous. It's a little like teaching yourself how to play the guitar; it's possible, but it requires plenty of patience and passion. There's no question that it's a powerful and educational game-making toolkit, but we recommend it only for those who have a strong desire to dabble in Xbox game design and are willing to spend several hours learning the ropes.

Regarding online interaction, players can play the games they make with people who appear in their Xbox friends list, but no random strangers are allowed.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what a career in the game industry might be like. Did Kodu make you think you may have a knack for game design? What kind of training, skills, and talents should aspiring game makers try to develop? What sort of a role would you like to play in a game's development? Artist? Level designer? Character designer? Game designer? Director? Do you think the game industry will still have the same sorts of jobs in 10 or 20 years?

Game details

Platforms:Windows, Xbox 360
Price:$5
Pricing structure:Paid
Available online?Available online
Developer:Microsoft
Release date:July 1, 2009
Genre:Educational
ESRB rating:NR

This review of Kodu Game Lab 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 these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

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.

Great handpicked alternatives

For kids who love building games

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

Parent of a 1, 7, 7, 7, and 9 year old Written byBWD October 15, 2009

Better than CSM Review

Unlike the CSM review, I did find a tutorial...essentially a set of objectives that slowly teach you different ways to build and modify pre-existing games. My eight year old was able to build a rudimentary (and fun) co-op game within the first hour he played with it. Agree that it doesn't have the polish of LBP on PS3, but this is a $5 Indie game and with that in mind, its a very, very good value. This also is good for teaching logic, because you can build a lot of if-thens into your game...the designers envisioned what if someone made the equivalent of LOGO for today's kids...and this is it!
What other families should know
Educational value
Kid, 9 years old December 8, 2013

WOW

Great game, when you learn how to do it, it is so easy.
What other families should know
Great messages
Educator Written byacheeseberger June 19, 2013

Kodu Game Lab teachings game design/programming skills

Kodu Game Lab is also a free download on Windows computers. On the Kodu website, there are tons of other tutorials, demos, and even lesson plans to help players learn more about building games in Kodu as well as game design techniques in general. Folks at the Games+Learning+Society even have a project called Studio K which offer school appropriate lesson plans and tools to teach game design in class using the Kodu Game Lab. gameslearningsociety[dot]org[slash]studiok
What other families should know
Great messages

Poll

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

Star Wars Guide