Lucas Learning Ltd. has created a dream program for any Star Wars fans out there who ever fantasized of building their own droids. This game is called Star Wars DroidWorks and it amazingly combines entertainment and scientific learning all into one. Parents should have as much fun solving the many puzzles in the game as their children, making DrowdWorks a truly rare find.
As you enter the program, you are told that the Empire, the bad eggs of the Star Wars universe, are busy building assassin droids at a hidden droid factory on the planet Tatooine. The Rebels need one of their agents, the player, to go to that den of scum and villainy in disguise as a Jawa with the task of building a friendly droid that can infiltrate the droid factory and reprogram all the assassin droids.
The game is set up in missions for the player. The program lets you know what requirements must be successfully met in order to complete a mission, and gives you clues as to how to design each of your droids.
In order to be a successful droid builder, you must be careful when designing your droid. In the workshop where the player is working, you must carefully check droid parts information given on the screen and remember the specifics of the mission for the best choice of design. The workshop has a holographic design grid that allows for 360 degree viewing during the designing stage.
The player is given a variety of droid parts including heads, torsos, arms, legs and wheels to choose from in designing a droid. Each part of the possible 88 robotic limbs has its own special needs and functions listed. The right combination of these parts can lead the player on to another mission, and the wrong combination leads the player back to the drawing board. The player can be assisted by the likes of C-3PO and another droid named Cammy throughout the game, so you are never truly alone.
This is a very fascinating program for a number of reasons besides just the fact that it has such an interesting Star Wars theme. The player must apply scientific knowledge and creative powers to practice. If a player has a question about any scientific terminology they are faced with in the mission, they can visit the InDex (Information and Data Expert) for a full tutorial on magnets, wedges, gears and a variety of other scientific topics. The InDex is also linked to the Internet as a means for further exploration on scientific topics.
Each mission is set up to teach players about one particular set of scientific knowledge. For example, in one mission you have to build a light droid that can be flung across a pit using a level and fulcrum as a catapult. Once you have built a droid that you think can pass whatever challenge is offered for that level, the view changes to a 3D interface, with the camera generally right behind your droid a bit in a Tomb Raider type of interface. The graphics engine is the same one used for LucasArts’ Dark Forces, so the animation is pretty good, though it drives up the system requirements higher than most kid’s software.
I found this program to be a beneficial experience both educationally and for pure entertainment purposes. The package is designed for players ten and up, because of the program’s focus on somewhat advanced scientific concepts. Players must use trial and error, creativity and the application of their scientific knowledge to accomplish missions. If a player needs more information about simple machines, magnetism, energy or any of the other scientific areas investigated in this program, then they have a number of resources including the InDex and the Internet to use.
Learning in this game isn’t a painful task. Scientifically unmotivated individuals will most likely find that their understanding of such usually abstract scientific concepts make much more sense when used ‘hands-on’ and in context.
Gaining and applying this information for the purpose of successfully completing missions for the Rebel Alliance appears to be a motivational spoonful of sugar for the otherwise scientifically unmotivated or challenged individuals. For those already interested and fascinated by the field of science, this program is a useful tool for applying knowledge and motivating further learning in this area.
And for anyone interested in science and/or Star Wars, this is a package worth exploring. I give it an exceptionally high 4 Â½ out of 5 GiN Gems, because it presents an ingenious way to get children interested in otherwise vague science concepts, and is a heck of a lot of fun too.