Review of Moshi Monsters
My 9 year old recently ran across a children’s game site called Moshi Monsters . The site allows kids to adopt a monster and take care of it. The way they do this is by playing puzzles every day to earn Rox, an in-game currency. Then players can use Rox to buy food, drinks, furniture for their house, and toys for their monster.
The puzzles are educational–from color and pattern recognition, to arithmetic, to spatial puzzles, to vocabulary. Instead of single puzzles, each “puzzle” is actually a series of challenges presented in a series, and the player is on a timer to see how many correct answers they can get before the timer runs out. The puzzles calibrate based on each day’s performance, so they get easier if the player is having trouble, and harder if the player is doing very well.
In addition to the educational content in the puzzles themselves, the monsters talk to the player using speech bubbles, giving children practice in reading. There is an emotion icon showing what their monster is feeling, and this also has a label with an emotion word. This offers an opportunity to expand vocabulary, as the monsters may feel “jubilant” or “melancholy” instead of just “happy” or “sad”.
In terms of game mechanics, the site feels a bit underdeveloped to me. It is built on a “free to play, pay for advanced features” model. Generally this is a good model, if there is enough free content to keep players engaged and challenged. However, if you build your model such that the free content quickly becomes boring, the model breaks down. The free content mainly consists of taking care of your monster, playing puzzles to gain Rox, and exploring Monstro City. There is an adventure component, but aside from the first mission you must be a paying member to play that content. There is an area of Monstro City where you can play limited versions of Flash games, but most of these are available elsewhere on the Web or on mobile devices, and have limited educational value.
The site is designed with rigorous privacy protections in place and has a lot of ways to protect children’s identities. It definitely seems designed for kids by parents and educators, and in general seems safe. A parent’s permission is required to activate a child’s account and make it playable. However, like any internet site, none of this is foolproof. Before allowing your child to add friends or accept friend requests, make sure you talk to them about Internet safety and emphasize why giving out personal information is not acceptable. Parents are encouraged to participate in the site–but unlike other game sites, this one doesn’t really have content challenging or interesting enough to engage an adult for more than a few minutes.
In general I think this is a good game site for kids in the 4-7 yr. old age range. Older kids might be interested for a while, particularly if they like things like Pokemon or other adoptable pet games, or if they like the Flash games area. The level of educational value is high for the pre-K to Gr. 3 level, but tapers off after that. The safety precautions and ability for parents to monitor and control their child’s involvement is high, which is particularly important for younger children. Before allowing your child to participate in the site, read the “Information for Parents” page at the site and talk to your child about Internet safety. If you know what’s going on and supervise their participation, this site could be very entertaining and educational for the right age group.