Other Choices: Science Bob, NASA's Space Place, HowStuffWorks
Education: Clear, age-appropriate explanations make strong connections between roller coaster design and physical science concepts.
Synopsis: Learn physics while designing your own roller coaster.
Common Sense Rates It:
Parents need to know
Parents need to know that Coaster Crafter: Build. Ride. Scream! is an immersive game that teaches kids about force and motion while they design, build, and test virtual roller coasters. Coaster Crafter is designed to support STEM learning (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and its content is aligned with state and national standards in those areas. Parents should have no reservations about letting their middle or high schooler play, but should check the Technical Requirements section beforehand; they may need to download new versions of software or change the screen resolution to get the full experience.
- Families can talk about male and female stereotypes in the media. Why would game developers use a female character to lead a science based game?
- Discuss the how simulations help people learn. Why do we use simulations? Can they prepare us enough for the real thing? Even pilots and doctors, who work with detailed simulators, have to log hours in real planes and with real patients before going out on their own. Why?
- Foster an interest in physics with a look at our favorite physics-based games for kids.
What's the story?
Bruno, of Bruno's World, builds mediocre roller coasters. With Bruno's brainy daughter Brunette as their guide, kids learn how to make great roller coasters. In the Design Challenge area, kids view problematic designs and learn about a concept, like friction, to answer questions and fix them. Kids then take their new knowledge to the Coaster Challenge area and try to build coasters to spec. A free play area lets kids build their own roller coasters with parts they've earned doing the challenges.
Is it any good?
Roller coasters are popular hooks for teaching force and motion; Cable in the Classroom has done that well with COASTER CRAFTER: BUILD. RIDE. SCREAM!. The visually appealing amusement park setting (complete with the occasional tattooed lady or strong man) is engaging. Simple graphics, text, and audio are effective teaching tools. With a blend of structured learning and exploration, kids will enjoy challenges to fix roller coaster designs, motivated by the reward of roller coaster parts to use later on their own. The physics-based simulations respond accurately to their designs; if something fails, kids can see why. Also, the female lead character with an expertise in science is a nice touch for girls.
The Good Stuff
Messages: A young female character with a strong grasp of physical science leads the game. She does show some contempt for her father being cheap and creating roller coaster problems.
Educational Value: Clear, age-appropriate explanations make strong connections between roller coaster design and physical science concepts.
What to watch out for
Violence Not an issue
Sex: Not an issue
Language: Not an issue
Consumerism: Not an issue
Drinking, drugs & smoking: Not an issue