A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Kids can learn about geology, mining, crafting, construction, and conservation in this highly creative sandbox-style adventure. A world ripe for manipulation and transformation allows players to experiment and see how different materials can be harvested and used to create objects useful to human existence. Astute players may also recognize how, with the passage of time, their relentless expansion leads to a resource-depleted setting. Optional cooperative play means kids can work collaboratively on the same project.
This game revolves around the twin themes of reason and creativity. Players are challenged to solve contextual problems of their own making using real-world knowledge, and encouraged to use their imaginations to design and build whatever they like. Mild monster combat exists, but is presented in rudimentary graphics and not sensationalized the way it is in many other games.
Positive Role Models
The player's avatar is mute and limited to mining, crafting, building, fighting activities. Kids will encounter a few non-player characters who want to provide guidance or trade, and they generally seem like decent folk, but they aren't developed enough to serve as practical role models.
Ease of Play
A tutorial takes players through the basics of mining, crafting, and building shelters. However, this game is somewhat less approachable and intuitive than some others in its genre due to its 2D presentation, slightly awkward menu design, and stiff platformer controls.
Violence & Scariness
Monsters -- floating eyes, zombies, worms -- attack the player's character regularly. Kids can choose either to flee or to attack with swords, bows, and magic. Attacks sometimes result in tiny square bits of blood being shed. Should the player's avatar die, he or she will leave behind a tombstone with an inscription that might embellish the circumstances of the death, suggesting, for example, that the hero's face had been "ripped off."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Players can craft kegs and brew ale.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Terraria is a sandbox-style mining, crafting, and building game similar to Minecraft. There is a bit of mild monster combat that involves slaying one-eyed flyers, slimes, and shuffling zombies, but the focus here is on exploration, discovery, and creation. Kids will need to use reason and call upon their understanding of the real world to figure out how to craft and build the things they need and want, from a simple shelter to -- if they choose -- to a sprawling mansion filled with details and luxuries. With no story or concrete objectives, it's up to players to choose what to do and how to do it.
Is It Any Good?
Terraria's 2D setting -- it's primary differentiator from Minecraft -- doesn't actually change the sandbox mining game formula all that much. You may be limited to digging and building on a flat plane, but the activities of harvesting materials, crafting items, and then placing them in the world to build things should prove quite familiar. And also a lot of fun.
That said, players should be aware that this game isn't quite as accessible as others in its genre. Movement and aiming are stiff and unforgiving and can lead to frustrating demises. Also, it takes time to grow accustomed to the game's awkwardly designed menus, which make working with recipes and ingredients and moving items around more complicated than necessary. Plus, occasional technical problems -- like the minute or so of extreme choppiness that follows after booting up a game in the Xbox 360 edition we evaluated -- don't help matters much. But while it may take a few hours to warm to, Terraria can prove quite rewarding for those tenacious enough to stick with it. It can be a great outlet for Lego-like creativity.
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.