A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What 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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
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.
Talk to your kids 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?
- Platforms: Windows, Xbox 360
- Subjects: Hobbies: building
Language & Reading: following directions, storytelling
Arts: playing, script writing
Math: numbers, patterns, sequences
- Skills: Creativity: brainstorming, imagination, making new creations, producing new content
Emotional Development: developing resilience, persevering
Tech Skills: digital creation, using and applying technology
Self-Direction: achieving goals, goal-setting, initiative, work to achieve goals
Communication: conveying messages effectively, multiple forms of expression
Thinking & Reasoning: decision-making, defining problems, logic, problem solving
Responsibility & Ethics: learning from consequences
- Pricing structure: Free
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Microsoft
- Release date: July 1, 2009
- Genre: Educational
- ESRB rating: NR
For kids who love building games
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.