A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a massively multiplayer online game which is still in Beta testing as of the date of this review. Kids sign up and play racing games, interact with friends without exchanging any personal information, and build race cars on the web site for free – but there are plenty of ads and videos on the site which encourage you to order a real world, remote-controlled versions of the car you design. The game also encourages real world interaction with parents and vehicles owned by the family by method of rewarding the player for asking their parents about a favorite car type as well as for checking the tire pressure on the family car and entering the data on the site.
What's it about?
The Ridemakerz brand is a take-off on the Build A Bear workshop model of business -- just instead of building bears, you build cars and trucks. New to the Ridemakerz family is a virtual world called RIDEMAKERZ, where kids from around the world can create a custom ride to enter in races and just cruise around an open world with other like-minded youth. While the online world does feature interaction, parents can rest assured that zero personal information is visible about your child's profile to others in the game. Similar to other family friendly online worlds, there is no chat option for kids to get in trouble with here – but a simple to use interface of pre-determined phrases and 'Zmotes' keeps things clean and out of trouble.
The game world has three main zones, each features an open driving zone just to cruise around and chat with other players online. Two of the zones feature a couple of different race options which are used to help advance your level to unlock better accessories and parts for your ride. In addition to the racing segments, one game puts you in control of the pit team which you manage when a car pulls into the pit for service. In another game you can collect experience and Z-cash for buying new parts as well as new clothing options for the in game avatar.
Is it any good?
Ridemakerz is still in a Beta phase, which means there could still likely be some bugs to be found; and depending on which browser you use some are worse than others. Using Firefox, the game locked up the entire browser whereas Internet Explorer seemed a lot less prone to issues. The games themselves don't have much to them, other than using the four arrow keys and optionally the zero key or the spacebar for the racing phases. But what is here is likely going to appeal to kids who are passionate about cars, as working towards the higher levels unlocks cooler and better equipment – so long term play is rewarded. The best game by far is the pit crew challenge, as it takes a careful balance of managing the pit stops and repairs to take first prize.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about motor vehicles and what makes them so important in daily life? They can also discuss maintenance and how keeping a car in top working order is not only good for the vehicle, but safer for the family as well as better on the environment. They can also talk about the commercialism in this game and how, while this game is offered for free on the internet, it nonetheless encourages you to spend money.
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