Plan It Green: The Big Switch

Game review by
Jenny Tsai, Common Sense Media
Plan It Green: The Big Switch Game Poster Image
Sim game challenges kids to build an eco-friendly city.

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The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Educational Value

Kids can learn about the environment, urban planning, resource management, and self-direction. The game reveals interesting facts about U.S. energy consumption as points are collected. With the game's goal being to achieve the highest city and eco-friendliness rating (though this goal is not explicit), urban planning is inherent to this. For kids who can put up with the slow pace of Plan It Green: The Big Switch, it offers a lot of information about building sustainable cities.

Positive Messages

This city-building simulation focuses on environmental issues. It promotes environmentalism and sustainable urban planning. It also promotes long-term planning, self-direction, and the management of limited resources. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The characters in the game are secondary characters since this is simulation game. The secondary characters are representative of real-world gender and ethnic diversity. 

Ease of Play

The pace of the game is slow, and it's hard to understand your progress. As a standalone game, it may be inaccessible to kids with lower reading comprehension, as the game has a lot of reading.   

Violence & Scariness

The game does not promote the purchase of certain branded products, but it is sponsored by GE and National Geographic, and those logos are present throughout the game. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Plan It Green: The Big Switch is the environmentalist's version of SimCity. This simulation game is reading-intensive, with eco-friendly facts popping up upon advancement of play. The pace of the game is slow, exacerbated by the lack of clear goals for "winning the game." In addition to building the city, players can engage in quests and arcade games for more points. Players can connect to the game via Facebook, but the social component doesn't kick in until Level 5. The user experience may feel low-tech compared to the other games. 

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What's it about?

In PLAN IT GREEN: THE BIG SWITCH, the player uses a combination of in-game currency (coins, hearts, energy, and supplies) to build an eco-friendly city. As the player advances levels, new environmentally friendly options open up as city additions, such as parks and eco-friendly housing. Each time the player collects coins, a new environmental fact is shared. Every few minutes there are additional currencies to collect from the existing properties. Players save up their currencies to build bigger items, such as houses and factories. The game is untimed -- players can leave the browser open, returning at their leisure.

Is it any good?

This is one of those games wherein the learning potential is high but the engagement is only so-so. The pace is slow because you have to wait for the currency to recharge, and it takes a long time to accumulate sufficient coins to create new buildings. Furthermore, it's hard to understand your progress. As a standalone game, this may be inaccessible for kids with lower reading comprehension, as the game is reading-heavy.   

However, for those who persevere, it can be a great learning experience. The in-game content may prove valuable for adults and kids alike. The game highlights the latest green innovations and how this technology can impact a community. As such, for those who explore the game, the potential for increased knowledge and awareness is high.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Environmentalism is often a controversial topic in the news. How do we help our kids make sense of the news?  

  • How can you be a balanced gamer on the Internet?

Game details

  • Platforms: Mac, Windows
  • Subjects: Science: ecosystems and the environment, electricity
    Hobbies: building
  • Price: Free
  • Pricing structure: Free
  • Available online? Available online
  • Developer: National Geographic
  • Release date: March 18, 2013
  • Genre: Simulation
  • ESRB rating: NR
  • Last updated: November 11, 2020

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