Little Space HeroesSpring 2012 Website
This immersive MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) game is a safe and amusing Space Age environment where you can set your younger kids loose online for hours of simplistic entertainment and even a smidgeon of learning-if that's what you want.
Set in a fantasy futuristic world that's colorful, cartoony and, above all, cute (emphasis on cute), "Little Space Heroes" lets kids roam around in search of adventures while other real-life kids via their little space hero avatars are roaming around, too, bumping into things, hoping to make new friends, trying to figure out what to do. Not unlike real life in that sense.
There is the requisite back story, of course, something about the evil Shadowbot who has kidnapped odd and kindly little Glows creatures that the Space Heroes must to save. So, yes, you could say the premise of the game provides a wonderful lesson in helping those in need, but really, that's not the point of this game.
This online spacey world is mostly about wandering around, playing mini-games to earn points (or coins), exploring fantasy worlds (where you might save a few Glows), completing "training" exercises, and "shopping" with at The Plaza's virtual retail stores. It's a moderated environment where players can communicate primitively via message menus and filtered "safe chat," and are encouraged to tattle on any players breaking the "be nice" rules laid out clearly at the beginning. While it's advertising-free, there is virtual shopping. Parents should read through the "Parent Information" section on the homepage that clarifies the site's precautions before sitting their child at the computer.
Players begin by creating their own avatar Space Hero-choosing between male, female or alien identities, creating a name, choosing color of outfit and of skin, etc. Pretty standard stuff for MMOs and first-person video games, and this one doesn't take any of that to new heights.
Moving on, players learn the easy point-and-click navigation skills and then choose locations to drop in on from a scrolled map and eventually, when they earn their wings, other planets. The Space Academy is where you start training to earn your own Starjet and Jetpack to explore the galaxy. But other locations prove to be more entertaining, offering mini-games involving racing, speeding through asteroid belts, battling aliens and rocketing through space. Check out the aquariums if you're looking for a little educational content.
None of these activities are difficult but players learn them by the seat of their space suits because the game lacks moment-by-moment or audible instructions and kids most likely drawn to its simpler game play may be too young to click into the "journals" and read instructions.
Generally, this is a decent online game for younger kids (12-year-olds won't stick with it long if at all), but parents must ask themselves if handing their 5- or 6-year-old over to this kind of online fantasy play makes sense. There's a limited free version at the Little Space Heroes homepage if you want to decide for yourself.