Kids want fun. Parents want safety – and a few good lessons where possible.
“Herotopia” rises to the challenge for both groups. It’s a browser-based game where kids log on, take the guise of a superhero and explore a world filled with adventure.
Caryn and Wade Teman – parents of young girls and developers of “Herotopia” – say the game is a combination of “Carmen Sandiego” and “I Spy.” The core of the game involves zipping from Paris to New York to Beijing to the North Pole and other locations to search for clues and solve mysteries – usually involving a menacing bunch of bullies. Each location offers different minigames – usually based on popular casual games, such as “Frogger” and “Bejeweled.” Each game fits into the “Herotopia” theme and often involves dealing with the bullies. “Herotopia” currently offers 75 individual quests and 25 minigames in 19 locations. As you complete quests and play games, you earn points that can be used to buy new gear, vehicles or items for your hideout.
Since this is a game about superheroes, everyone has at least one special power, such as shooting bolts of electricity or emitting a noxious cloud of bad breath. They’re mostly for bragging rights but they can come in handy in some games.
“Herotopia” also has some light multiplayer elements, such as friend-making, gift-giving and chat. However, in a nod to security, only hero names are used and dialog is limited to predetermined comments, questions and responses. And in each case, the interactions are designed to be positive.
The game also slips a few educational elements into the mix. Kids can click on items and learn facts about the real versions of the cities they’re exploring. Or they can learn about being good stewards of their surroundings by picking up trash or fixing problems they discover. And you can visit your hideout and play Power Puzzles, which are fun little brain-teasers.
Like many browser-based games, the basic “Herotopia” package is free. You can explore most of the areas and play most of the games without a fee. However, if you want to unlock Herotopia Island, acquire a hideout, gain an orangutan sidekick or play the complete range of missions, you’ll need a subscription, which costs about $6 per month.
Technically, the game performed very well. It loaded quickly and ran very smoothly on my very average computer. The music can get a bit repetitive, but it’s easily silenced. I found the safety features very thorough.
Overall, the game play, quests and games were fun and well suited for the 6-12 age range that the developers are aiming for.
Apparently others believe in the franchise, too. Penguin Children’s Books is planning a series based on the game. I just wonder whether I’ll recognize a blond-haired kid who shoots electricity from his fingertips.