A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Kids can learn varying types and levels of arithmetic -- addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, algebra, and more -- all of which is integrated directly into the adventures. There's also a safe social aspect that allows players to team up with one another and work together. Kids need to set their goals and work hard to achieve them. Missions can be played at multiple skill levels, so kids can adjust the game's difficulty to fit their abilities -- and challenge themselves when they want to achieve higher goals. In Math Blaster Online, kids work with others to save the universe by using math on leveled missions.
In addition to the overarching message that math can be fun, the game's social aspect also encourages team spirit and cooperation.
Positive Role Models
With the possible exception of the opening scene, in which your trainer/guide seems somewhat apologetic about the fact that you're going to do some math, the Blaster Academy folks are all top-notch role models. They're supportive, but push you to try harder. They're generally friendly and cooperative. And they're all really smart.
Ease of Play
Through most of Math Blaster Online, you can control movement with either a mouse or the arrow keys. But occasionally, you reach a game in which you must use the arrow keys, and that can make aiming at moving targets quite a challenge. For the most part, though, the controls work well enough. And you can adjust the difficulty of the math problems throughout, as well as the difficulty of the gaming.
Violence & Scariness
As the title suggests, there is blasting. In different exercises, you will zap asteroids, UFOs, targets, roadblock-type obstacles, and pictures of villains. But all of this is done as part of various training missions in the Blaster Academy (i.e., none of your targets are meant to be real).
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Products & Purchases
While anyone can play the game for free, there is a whole bunch of advanced content that can only be accessed by JumpStart members. Memberships cost $7.99/month, $74.99/year, or $149.99 for a one-time lifetime membership. These memberships give you access not only to Math Blaster Online, but the fantasy-themed JumpStart Online as well. As a member benefit, you get four full-length downloadable games from JumpStart, too.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Math Blaster Online is an online role-playing game that is centered around educational play. As a player, your child will join the Blaster Academy and go through various training missions so they can learn how to protect the universe from bad guys. These training missions, while based in sci-fi themes, are all math games that involve performing equations to win. There is quite a bit of laser-shooting involved, but no blasting of living beings occurs. Also, while this is a social game, and children can befriend and chat with other players, they can only speak through the use of pre-selected phrases. Nor can they give out personal information.
Is It Any Good?
The scope of Math Blaster Online is quite impressive -- the academy is full of elevators and doors that lead to all sorts of different game areas. So is the way the developers have managed to keep the mini-game missions action-packed while being unabashedly math-focused. Being able to constantly tweak the difficulty level and the type of math problems you'll face is a nice way to make sure kids don't quickly outgrow the game. The social aspect is fun -- allowing kids to form teams and even make plans to meet for a multiplayer game -- while remaining safe through the use of pre-selected phrases (as well as loads of fun gestures and emoticons). And the earning of new academy ranks provides incentive for kids to keep playing -- and keep learning in the process. It provides a very nice transition from solo educational game to online social game.
Online interaction: This is a massively multiplayer game in which you can communicate with others using a drop down chat system. They cannot reveal personal information.
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