There are a number of choices for online virtual worlds in which kids can play these days. Our family has worked through Club Penguin and Moshi Monsters most recently. Little Space Heroes is one we are just starting to try out and having been impressed with its story telling and child-safety features we worked with them on creating this Family Gamer TV episode.
Little Space Heroes is a web game developed by Bubble Gum Interactive in Australia. You play a Space Hero and complete basic training in using Bubble Blasters, Jetpack and Starjet. From here you are enlisted to foil the plans of the game’s villain Lord Shadowbot, a robot with a fear of the dark. You search the galaxy for clues about where he has hidden the stolen Glows.
It was the storytelling that seemed most different from the other web games we had tried. Many of the team on the game have a background with Disney and you can tell. Not only are there some novel twists — I love the idea of a baddie who is afraid of the dark — but it is also written for both adults and children. For instance there is a daily in-game newspaper with all sorts of background information on the game world. I got quite addicted to reading these each time they came out.
As you progress you accept various missions and quests. This enables you to earn badges and awards. But it is the social aspect of the game where my kids really started to get interested, and in particular the team-play.
With any online game for children a big concern is how safe an environment it is. While there is no replacement for playing games with your kids (and as you can see in the video, a screen sharing option is a nice way to keep tabs on them), Little Space Heroes has some strong chat controls to keep children safe.
Firstly they use a growing white and black list of words. This rules out certain words from being used, and in particular aims to stop conversation linking the virtual space to the real world space. For instance you can’t ask where someone goes to school or lives. There is also an option to just use a preset list of words in chat, which again makes things very safe for players.
While my youngest (4) found the game a little complex in places and got a bit frustrated about not being able to read everything, the whole family found parts of Little Space Heroes that they enjoyed. The game seems to do a better job at offering different ways to play it. My daughter decided she wanted to collect all the different outfits and was able to focus on that while my older son went after the different missions to progress the story.
Little Space Heroes is free to play via the website, although premium membership does give you access to more content. As you can see in the video though, there is plenty to do without paying for the game, and much less of a hard sell than some other sites. I went back to visit the Pestridges a few weeks later and found that they were still happily playing on just the basic membership.
It will be interesting to see how long they keep playing, we’ll be checking back with them to see how they get on in the coming months.