What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Outernauts is Facebook game about collecting Pokemon-like space monsters and having them do battle with one another. The game is colorful and cartoony and would appeal to kids as young as eight -- however, Facebook is age-gated for users thirteen and over. While free to play, the game has a tricky currency system, requiring users to spend real money on "gems" in order to upgrade their game experience and truly progress through the storyline. In addition, the game offers lots of benefits to players who cooperate with friends. While the teamwork aspect presents a good message, it may also encourage kids to befriend strangers on Facebook, just so they have more people to play with.
What's it about?
OUTERNAUTS owes a lot to Pokemon in terms of its gameplay mechanics. As a member of an interplanetary monster-collecting organization, you'll hop through space systems capturing creatures for your team and training them to battle other odd monsters. As the creatures go up in level, they evolve physically, going from cute cuddly critters to large scary beasts. There's also a sim aspect to the game, in that you can buy items to decorate your homeworld before inviting Facebook friends over for a visit.
Is it any good?
The developers of Outernauts put a lot into the game. There are a surprising number of planets to explore and creatures to collect, as well as a slew of helpful items to buy-- or to build in your own lab-- and an entire homeworld to creatively customize. The battle system is nicely detailed; it's easy to learn but still requires a lot of strategy. But it's hard not to get frustrated by some of the sneaky ways the game gets you to spend real money. You can earn tons of coins in the game and think to yourself, "This is great! I can upgrade!" But so many of the truly important items can't be purchased with coins. To buy new creature slots, allowing you to own more than three monsters, you need to spend gems. To buy new power slots, allowing your creatures to have more than four attacks, you need to spend gems. To give your creature a health boost during a battle... you get the picture. But there's no way to earn gems in the game. You can only buy them with real cash. For anywhere from $5 to $100 a bunch.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about fiscal responsibility. Spending real cash will undoubtedly help kids excel at Outernauts, but is that what they really want to spend their money on? And is it really their money to spend?
Talk to children about online safety as well. Make sure they know about the possible pitfalls of befriending strangers online.