Educational games get a bad wrap for being either too badly designed or too impractical as an effective teaching tool. Most educational games tend to be novelties that soon get lame and boring, which goes against what they were designed to do in the first place. While people had experimented with educational games for quite a while now, it seems that developers are starting to get the formula down. For once, there are now titles like Reach for the Sun that can get past the shovelware status of most so-called educational games.
Reach for the Sun is an educational simulation game by Filament Games that lets players grow plants. “Watching grass grow” is usually the phrase coined to denote a boring event, but this game does put fun and aesthetic appeal to the plant-growing process. Players are tasked to take care of a plant and carry it through its life cycle as efficiently as possible, including growing enough fruits to progress. The objective is to get all the fruits you can get from those plants, so you have to get together the essential nutrients and other sources of nourishment for the plant as good as you can.
Going up against you are the elements that constantly skew the balance in your plants’ photosynthesis while still providing what they need to survive and grow. You also get to buy upgrades to help your plants grow better Most of the macromanagement in the game is in collecting energy with which your plants can use to grow and thrive. The roots gather water and minerals from the soil and the leaves absorb sunlight for photosynthesis, which are then converted to starch that serve as food for the plants.
The tutorial is well-designed, and it ought to be since you can’t spend most of the time teaching kids how to work out the mechanics of the game. There are 4 plants to try out, each with their own factors and challenges. As for the presentation, the visuals and animations are well done and the music suits the gameplay. In fact, it’s perhaps the aesthetics that give this game its appeal, so even gamers can appreciate its quality. If you’re into casual games, then you can play this and enjoy it, although it could use more gameplay modes to mix things up.
It’s quite short, but most educational games are since they have to fit in the time constraints of a class. This game is not really built for tremendous challenge, and it doesn’t really have a story other than the effervescent glory of Mother Nature. It does have an almanac for added botanical facts and related information. With that in mind, this actually does quite well in teaching kids about plants and how they grow without being too tacky or impractical. It has a nice overall design from how it looks to how it plays, making it more than just a novelty.
Reach for the Sun is not really a game that most people can enjoy though, so being sold as such for $5 may leave some buyers disappointed. But if you’re a pre-school or grade school teacher who has to teach basic biology to kids, or if you’re a parent who is looking to show your kid how Mother Nature works, then this could help as a good teaching aid.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 6.5/10