Go play it - Wizard101
.Description of why:
My now 13 ½yo daughter and one of her friends have been playing the online game Wizard101
($FREE) for a year or more, and they introduced it to my now 4½yo when he had turned 4, since which time he has proceeded to develop and train 6 wizards in his account (6 is the max no. of wizards allowed in an account) from 6 different magical "schools" - there are 7 schools in all. Wizard 101 seems t be loosely-based on the model of "wizard school" as set out in the Harry Potter stories.
My son has brought up his wizards from where they started at Level 1, to now Levels 14 to 20 (levels go up to a hundred, but you probably would have to become a paying member for that. On the way to getting to this point, he has developed and later deleted some wizards where he made mistakes or choices in their development and where he wanted to see if he could do better or differently by starting them afresh, or trying another school.
Not only is the game fun to play, but it is rather complex, and if the player wants to aim for optimum development and duelling skills (against other wizards and against baddies) of any given wizard, then the playing choices are confusingly multi-faceted and interwoven/interdependent to some extent. I started playing the game with him, helping him along, and by the time I had rather lost interest in it, he had started to become proficient, and he has now gone on to discover things about the game that I had not known of or understood, and I would say that he now understands the game well and in many instances better
than I do. The thing that I reckoned would hold him back was his inability to read. Though there are audio tracks where people artefacts in the game give hints and "Quests" for players to undertake (the audio being presented at the same time as text), there are large chunks of the game that necessitate reading skills and numerical comparison of things like health points, mana, spell strengths, etc.
To my great surprise, he has done what I have read about children doing - they memorise the pattern
of a word or phrase, and can tell you what it "says", without being able to properly read - so his memory skills are being developed. Furthermore, his numerical comparison and reasoning skills have been raised so that he can cope on his own and no longer needs my help in playing, except in some of the most complicated tasks around arranging an optimum mix for a wizard's skills, powers and magical equipment (redolent of the old RPG approach, but done in a GUI).
The above just scratches the surface of Wizard101. Non-paying members find that they are stuck in the main, initial realm, and unable to proceed to play the game in some specific certain places in that realm, until they start to pay $ to join up. However, apart from this limitation, the game is not crippled and can continue to be played for free in the initial realm, discovering new parts that open up to a wizard as he/she ascends the skill levels.
Wizards have finite max. stores of health points and mana points. As the wizard develops, the max levels increase
, and can be further augmented/increased by using appropriate magical paraphernalia. Health and mana need to be recharged after they have been reduced in the game (in using magic and in undertaking magic duels), and there are floating "wisps" that wizards can bump into to get a small recharge.
To get from A to B - and there's a lot
of that to be done (maps help to teach you the lie of the land) - Wizards can either walk/run, or travel on a "mount" (e.g., including flying broomsticks and flying dragons). After they get to a certain level, they can also "teleport"
from one place to another, which uses up a small amount of mana each time.
If a $FREE-playing wizard has made a "friend" of a wizard on a $PAID account in a higher level, then the first wizard can teleport to their friend
- whether the latter is in the same realm, or in his castle, or in a different realm - to play, and at no cost. Very shrewd of the game developers to offer "sampling" like that.
All in all, Wizard 101 seems to be a superb game, and one that I would highly recommend - for game adepts and for children of 4yo and over, alike. It would be great fun for the former, and almost certainly developmental for the latter - and possibly for their parents too!