The Magic School Bus: Oceans

Game review by
Christopher Healy, Common Sense Media
The Magic School Bus: Oceans Game Poster Image
Hooks kids with fun games and loads them with knowledge.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can learn about our oceans and the marine life that resides within. By joining Ms. Frizzle's wacky field trip into the ocean, kids explore the different levels of the ocean and meet creatures that live within each. Ms. Frizzle introduces them to the appearances, habits, and diets of these ocean creatures via videos, photos and factoids. Kids can play games with marine animals as a means of reinforcing the information that's been introduced. Kids experience the wonders of the ocean in this terrific underwater field trip.

Positive Messages

All stories (and games) about the Magic School Bus carry the general message that learning is an adventure. Oceans is no different.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The students in the story are eager for knowledge, and Miss Frizzle is endlessly enthusiastic about teaching them.

Ease of Play

Mini-games get more difficult as the game progresses, but the most challenging of them are knowledge-based. Ones that are more "video game-like" are generally simple to play.

Violence & Scariness

There is one mini-game here that may be seen as slightly violent: A food chain challenge. You control a fish that must eat smaller fish and avoid being eaten by bigger ones. The eating is depicted by the smaller fish disappearing while a chomping sound is heard.

Language
Consumerism

There is a Magic School Bus TV series on PBS, as well as a long-running series of books.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Magic School Bus: Oceans is an educational game based on an episode of the Magic School Bus TV series as well as a book. There are a ton of interactive mini-games woven into the story, and the game presents a vast amount of information about ocean life (much of which may be educational even to adults). One mini-game is about the food chain and does show fish eating other, smaller fish.

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What's it about?

In The Magic School Bus: Oceans, the students have to decorate their classroom with a marine theme for Parents' Day, so Miss Frizzle takes them on a field trip to the bottom of the sea where they can learn about ocean life firsthand. At each level of the ocean (tidal basin, coral reef, etc.), kids can pick up tons of info about the kinds of fish and other creatures that live in that region. Then they're tested on that info through a series of mini-games that range from obstacle courses to straight-up quizzes.

Is it any good?

The Magic School Bus: Oceans is perfectly designed to make kids feel like they're really part of this magical field trip to the depths of the sea. It's quite a feat, really. There are a ton of hard facts in here, not just generalized basic info. And yet, Oceans always feels like a game, never a homework session. Some of the activities are pure games, like steering a sideways-walking crab through a maze of rocks and seaweed. But others draw directly on the knowledge that kids should have picked up through their exploring time. It's a great strategy, because it forces kids to go back, re-read, and really absorb the information if they want to earn enough points to unlock the next level. This is a wonderful model for educational games.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the Earth's oceans. The game may get children very interested in sea life. Parents can use this as a way to then inform kids about some of the more pressing issues affecting our oceans, like the plight of coral reefs.

  • Does playing an educational game make the learning more fun?

Game details

  • Platforms: Nintendo DS
  • Subjects: Science: animals, ecosystems, life cycle
  • Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: applying information, collecting data, solving puzzles
  • Price: $19.99
  • Available online? Not available online
  • Developer: Scholastic
  • Release date: October 25, 2011
  • Genre: Educational
  • ESRB rating: E for N/A

For kids who love learning from games

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