Puzzlets by Digital Dream Labs is a welcome new addition to the vast array of digital kids games which also promise redeeming educational value. In this case DDL has delivered both entertainment and brain-workouts in a creative, highly integrated and intuitively designed bundle. Imagine uniquely empowered game heroes whose movement you control via preset commands. Linking multiple commands creates a “program” of your control-steps to navigate an adventure-laden maze … slide left or right, jump up or down, as challenges dictate. This is the DNA of Puzzlets and the game we tested, “Cork the Volcano.”
THE OPERATIONAL CONTEXT – The labyrinth that challenges your hero is displayed on a wide selection of Apple or Android screens, including laptops, tablets or phones. The commands come in the form of 22 individual stamp-sized plastic puzzlets you drop into a keyboard sized program “Play Tray.” Witness your strategies success once you “double-click” launch your commands from the Play Tray … program steps become visible as a cloud over your hero’s head and you then consecutively touch symbols of the command puzzlets to help move your hero along. That’s right, you not ONLY have to get the program steps right to move characters through the maze, but you have to help with the timing of the commands with a screen touch or a cursor movement. Moving from level to level, which involves moving through progressively more complicated labyrinths, is accomplished as your hero captures enough tokens to progress.
SO WHAT DO WE HAVE HERE – PUZZLETS is a kinda “Java + Super Mario + Kids-Lumosity” all wrapped into one great game experience. Players have to do the equivalent of writing a computer program to get their game character to move (logically linking the puzzlets), the mission for which is guiding their hero through, around and past obstacles and adversaries, all of which is being timed and graded by the computer for efficiency of puzzlets used (least possible) and how tactilely well they executed the program. Best of all, in our Playonwords minds, is that each different PROGRAM is really a STORY (sets of characters, settings, plotted actions) that needs to be PLANNED out and then TESTED for meeting it’s objective, from which one LEARNS what was done correctly, and not so. In acquiring the competence to play (how to write the story program) and playing collaboratively with friends (planning, learning, correcting, analyzing, celebrating) there are a myriad of words and conversations flowing which elicits delicious language. Exercising and strengthening story skills is a cornerstone of reading, writing and building overall literacy. Adding to this the opportunity to strengthen core cognitive abilities in a STEM context, you’ve got a real winner!
By Bob Artemenko
Available at Digital Dream Labs.