Taken Charge

Game review by
David Thomas, Common Sense Media
Taken Charge Game Poster Image
Computer-skills adventure stalled by high difficulty, story.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can learn critical skills for a 21st-century learner. This interactive video game adventure seems like a good way to explore Web browsing, security, networking, cyberbullying, and other concepts. Players who stick with the 30 levels will walk away with a better sense of why these concepts matter and how a computer works. Presented in a colorful 3-D world populated by idiosyncratic characters, the game promises to entertain even as it imparts skills. But many levels depend on Super Mario-style video game skills that some kids may not have and others may not enjoy, acting as a barrier to success. Further, while much of the narrative is cute and amusing, the talking animals, robots, and zombies can distract from the content. Taken Charge tries to present computer concepts in a fun, amusing, and approachable manner.

Positive Messages

Emphasizes achievement, helping others, overcoming obstacles. Player constantly encouraged to learn.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Main characters presented as smart, capable, dedicated members of their family; encourages the player to think of how their learning, understanding can help both themselves, those around them.

Ease of Play

Variety of levels presents wide variety of skills needed to play the game. Mario-style jumping levels could easily confound kids unused to that kind of gameplay.

Violence

No attacks or weapons; players restart at checkpoints if they collide with enemies, fall off platforms.

not present
Sex
not present
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Taken Charge is a downloadable platform adventure game that covers important computer concepts such as Web browsing, networking, computer hardware, security, and cyberbullying. It will take a player a dozen or more hours to master these basic concepts, working through a variety of matching and memory activities. Some levels may be challenging to kids not familiar with Super Mario-style jumping games. But most of the games provide easy-to-follow instructions that walk the player through the exercise. 

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What's it about?

In TAKEN CHARGE, a family of electrically charged creatures discovers that their pet dog Charge has been stolen. But not only is he the family pet, he's their source of power. The kids set off on a series of adventures to uncover the mystery of who abducted Charge and to save the family. During the adventure, players will meet a unique cast of characters, including Bigfoot, zombies, and evil robots. Players also must accomplish tasks related to learning objectives, helping characters and collecting items. Each objective covers a key computer concept, such as Web browsing, networking, and computer hardware to security, cyberbullying, and more.

Is it any good?

Game-ifying the learning of dry computing concepts holds a lot of promise. Unfortunately, along the way, Taken Charge provides uneven entertainment, with content often becoming obscured by peculiar narrative and surprisingly difficult game levels. So, though the title manages to teach the important concepts it sets out to cover, the game levels are as much of a distraction to learning as they help attract kids to the content. For example, on one level, the player must manage a 2-D Super Mario Bros.-style jumping activity across treacherous gaps and dangerous enemies to collect items. All this jumping is tangential to the task of identifying the parts of a computer. 

Ultimately, this makes the levels useful to a specific niche of kids: learners young enough to still need to understand the basics of Web browsing, email, and security but old enough to have a high level of gaming dexterity while also following long narrative arcs and lots of reading. Taken Charge tries to educate kids about important computer topics, but its attempt to be entertaining manages to overshadow its educational content.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about cyberbullying. What is it? How do you prevent it? How do you avoid it?

  • Why is computer security important? What can you do to keep your files and identity secure?

  • How does the home computer connect to the Internet? How does networking work?

  • How do you find information on the Web? What are some effective techniques for improving your Web searches?

Game details

  • Platforms: Mac, Windows
  • Subjects: Language & Reading: following directions, reading, reading comprehension
  • Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: applying information, collecting data, memorization
    Tech Skills: using and applying technology
  • Price: $39.99
  • Pricing structure: Paid (Price includes unlimited access to all game levels in the Taken Charge series. Learning management access, which provides additional tracking features, is available for $14.99.)
  • Available online? Available online
  • Developer: Galvanize Labs
  • Release date: August 23, 2015
  • Genre: Educational
  • Topics: Adventures, Misfits and Underdogs, Robots
  • ESRB rating: NR for No Descriptions

Themes & Topics

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