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 simulation game has players carrying out science experiments by handling the Wii remote as though it were a variety of laboratory implements, including a spoon, a brush, and a beaker. It provides children with a vague idea of the sort of processes that take place in a laboratory without bogging things down with hard scientific data. The game doesn’t provide enough information for kids to try carrying out experiments on their own, but the developers have still seen fit to warn players not to try anything seen in the game without “professional supervision.” The only questionable behavior in the game involves throwing smoke and goo bombs to block the vision of competing scientists and impede their progress.
What's it about?
A companion in spirit to Activision’s Cooking Mama games, SCIENCE PAPA puts players in the shoes of a laboratory assistant who must learn how to conduct a variety of experiments as quickly and efficiently as possible in order to enter and win various science competitions. Players handle the motion-sensitive Wii remote (or the stylus, if you happen to be playing the DS edition, which is nearly identical) as though it were a variety of laboratory utensils, including stir sticks, brushes, and beakers, as they rush from station to station around the lab combining, heating, and cleaning various materials in carefully orchestrated experiments. Players earn respect and cash as the game progresses, allowing them to purchase new tools, ingredients, and experiments, all in an effort to train so that they can take on skilled computer-controlled scientists in competition.
Is it any good?
At first, Science Papa is quite entertaining. The motions involved in carrying out experiments -- gently moving a beaker over the flame of a Bunsen burner, using a pestle to grind up a compound in a mortar -- are intuitive and fun. There’s some strategy involved, too. For instance, if there are several activities available at once and you recognize that one, such as cooking a compound in the oven, will involve a waiting period, you can start that one and then move on to another before coming back to switch the oven off before it blackens its contents.
However, much like its cousins in the Cooking Mama franchise, the activities grow repetitive after a while and start to feel less like fun activities and more like obstacles to progress. What’s more, a fairly high level of difficulty combines with occasionally inaccurate movement detection to create instances of aggravation (mixing liquids in a large beaker can be particularly annoying in the Wii version). It’s a fun interactive experience with a good premise and a warm heart, but its flaws keep it from being the sort of game you just don’t want to put down.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what a career in science might be like, and how closely the game simulates the life of a laboratory assistant. Would you like to spend your days working with chemicals and measuring results? Do you think it would be more interesting to conduct academic research or work for companies that rely on science to produce new products?
Families can also discuss the similarities between Science Papa and another Activision franchise, Cooking Mama. How are these games the same? How are they different? Do you think that the duties of a cook and a scientist are fairly similar? Which job do you think would be more fun?
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