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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Kids will learn about some of the basic variables that alter planets' properties. They'll find out what makes a planet hot or cold, what orbital factors -- including tilt and rotation -- influence the length of a day or year and more. Even more important, as kids play with these variables, they'll learn the connections among them. Does making shorter days make the planet hotter? What happens to the temperature when the planet's orbit moves away from the sun? This interactive celestial model encourages kids to experiment and find out the delicate balance of solar systems.
The story driving the game involves a goofy looking alien who makes silly requests for help. For instance, he starts the game asking the player to shorten the year so the alien's annual chocolate festival will happen sooner. The narrative isn't deep. But does frame all of the science with the notion of helping out an extraterrestrial race.
Positive Role Models
The only characters in the game are the planet's alien inhabitants who ask the player for help. They're not fully developed characters.
Ease of Play
Players are carefully walked through each stage of play, but, by design, even the most basic levels require trial and error experimentation. As long as the player takes the time to read the specific requirements of each level, gameplay should flow well.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Planet Mechanic is a brief educational game designed with middle and high school aged kids in mind. It's meant to show kids how planets get to be the way they are. Kids get requests from a planet's alien inhabitants, and must toy with a variety of scientific variables to get the planet just the way the aliens like it.
Is It Any Good?
PLANET MECHANIC does a great job of weaving play with learning, by having kids engage conceptually and experientially with planetary science and physics. Fiddling with orbits and atmosphere helps bring the delicate interplay of variables that make up a planet to life. It's a nice, palatable introduction to key and complex concepts. This also means, however, that it has limited depth and challenge. After about 20-30 minutes of play, kids will feel like they've pretty much exhausted the game. The result is something that feels less like a fully fleshed out game and more an interactive exercise albeit a great one.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.