In my continued exploration of virtual worlds, here are two more available worlds and my reviews.
To sign up, players choose an avatar, modify him/her slightly, then agree to the rules of play, and select a chat preference (safe chat or open chat).
The overall design of the world is visually appealing, warm and inviting. There’s a limited level of interactivity with basic objects that feel like they should do something when triggered (i.e. newspaper stands, fish ponds, signs that you should be able to read in greater detail), but still, the world is open enough that one can wander around for a while. Colourful coins seem to fly out of nowhere until you catch them, but it seems intuitive enough to chase them down. The sound design is somewhat inconsistent, ranging from noise with random sounds to jazzy and upbeat music that gets fairly repetitive, especially while waiting for long loading times. I actually had to reload the page several times, then log back in.
One also gets snagged quite early for upgrading membership, and links lead players to an external membership site, defeating the purpose of the “safe” self-contained virtual world. The mini-games are intuitive without instructions but seem slow-paced with limited fire power, like the Space Invader-like one and the Neo-Geo-like one in the “movie theatre” (too slow, I think for this age range).
I would recommend trying out this world for yourself to see if you think it’s worth the subscription. My visit was cut short due to technical difficulties on the part of the site (kicking me out and not accepting my password to log back in, for each of two browsers) but from the small part that I tried, I was curious to see what else was offered.
Subscriptions to Little Space Heroes are $6/month, $30/6 months and $54/1 year.
I’m always a little bit dubious of products that have such a wide age range, so my initial approach to Tootsville (for ages 6-14) was with some apprehension. When a target age range can’t be pinpointed, it usually means that the product is all over the place in terms of reading levels, focus, and difficulty.
After launching from the splash screen, players are presented not with a visual world/street/neighbourhood, but a graphical menu of locations which seems a bit lacklustre. However, each leads into a different “world” which seem beautifully illustrated, save for the abundance of cutesy elephants that seem to be for younger kids.
In Castle Toot, players can play solitaire (and that seems like the only game); and there’s a colouring “game” in the Art Studio. In the Arcade, it may be that paying subscribers are able to play all the games, but some are unavailable (I assume because they just don’t work). Some venues like Vit Lounge are strictly exclusive to subscribers.
I would recommend this world as something new to do for the 4-6 range. There are lots of activities, lots of random items to collect, but there’s some “heavy” reading (that isn’t voiced) which may be frustrating for younger players.
There is some educational value to this virtual world, though for games like The Word Cube Game (at Toot University), parents may have to help with the large blocks of written (but again not verbalized) instructions. Add Like Mad is a good game, but for the vague target age range of Tootsville, I’d say that it’s too advanced for the fluffy elephant crowd. It really depends on your individual child.
Subscriptions are $5.95 USD/monthly, $29.95 USD/6 months, $57.95 USD/1 year.
Image source: PC MMGN