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Review of Science Papa Video Game

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Review of Science Papa Video Game

The cover of the video game Science Papa by Activision.

Activision

The Bottom Line

This game had a lot of potential, but falls far short of its mark. Instead of inspiring an interest in science, prolonged play of the game results in the idea that science is a series of rote steps that are repeated over and over. The context of the experiments is, at best, optional and a player can complete the entire game without learning anything scientific.
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Pros

  • Game gives a basic sense of how to conduct a scientific experiment.
  • There may be some stimulation of scientific discussion and understanding of scientific concepts.
  • Very cool interface and control of tools on the Wii.

Cons

  • Game is played without any real understanding of scientific principles.
  • The rote "recipe" formula results in feeling that science is very boring and repetitive.
  • Encourages poor sportsmanship/cheating by dropping "bombs" in the middle of science competitions.

Description

  • Released in July 2009 by Activision.
  • Review is of the Wii version. There is also a Nintendo DS version of the game.
  • The game's title is a reference to a previous game, Cooking Mama, released in North America by a different gaming company.

Guide Review - Review of Science Papa Video Game

Science Papa is a video game which consists of a series of science-based mini-games in which you conduct formulaic "experiments," ranging from creating basic chemical compounds to genetically engineering hybric fruit plants. You do this in a step-by-step process that is illustrated with clear pictures, so that anyone can really follow along.

You are a young scientist, just starting out as an apprentice, and you proceed by learning new experiments, upgrading your equipment, and taking part in science competitions against more established scientists.

The Wii interface is great on this game, allowing you to pick up equipment and manipulate it in extremely realistic ways. Pouring water from a graduated cylinder into a beaker, for example, is as easy as tipping over the Wii controller just as you would the actual equipment. However, many pieces of equipment are activated just by a simple click of a button, while you whisk off to start work on a parallel step of the process.

They bored me with science

The major drawback to the game is that, while it does have you using scientific equipment, it doesn't really place the use in context. You grab a beaker and pour a chemical into another chemical, then take the result over to a bunsen burner and heat it up. What exactly is happening here? I don't know ... I just looked at the pictures and performed the next step in the process. I was following along for a while, but eventually it just becomes pointless. You eventually forget what experiment you're even doing, because you're just following the pictures.

Yes, it's possible that a kid might be interested in what's happening, and this could stimulate a discussion about scientific concepts, and maybe ask what a piece of equipment does or how it works. But that's completely incidental to the game. In truth, it no more sparks a discussion about science than playing Grand Theft Auto sparks a discussion about socio-economic problems and urban blight, or playing Donkey Kong Country sparks discussions of primatology.

What's up with the bombs?

One of my major problems with the game is that when you take part in your science competitions, you design various types of "bombs" - stink bombs, goo bombs, and so on - which are deployed against your opponent in the middle of the competition. (Right before you enter the tournament, you build your bombs in preparation.)

This makes no sense on any level whatsoever. First, it's poor sportsmanship, and has no place in a scientific game. Second of all, even if you were dishonest and wanted to cheat, how would you deploy these bombs unnoticed in the middle of a competition? Are we to expect that this is a fully accepted part of this science competition?

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