Friday, 20 August 2010
The Travels of Wiglington and Wenks Virtual World - fantastic free educational online game
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I was recently approached to test and review a fun and educational online game for children called The Travels of Wiglington and Wenks Virtual World (http://www.wiglingtonandwenks.com/). I was told to register for a free account then ask for a complimentary month-long upgrade so that I could enjoy the privileges that usually have to be paid for. I therefore told 9-year-old Sophie that we'd be able to play for a month but after that time, it would probably be too expensive for us to carry on the game. I was wrong on two counts - firstly, the upgrade to elite member status only costs a handful of dollars but most importantly, you can play the game and explore the virtual world almost in its entirety for absolutely free. The paid option simply allows you access to a few secret locations and gives you extra choices for things to buy in the shops. While this is a great way to support the site and allow them to keep developing the world and adding new content, it is in no way essential to enjoy the game.
And enjoy the game we certainly did ! Yes, that's right, "we" - I have to admit I've been having as much fun as Sophie ! I've played a few online games with Sophie in the past but they quickly become repetitive and tedious. This is the first time that I've carried on playing by myself after the kids' bedtime !
So what is it exactly ? Well, I'd never heard of Wiglington and Wenks but they are two adventurous mice who originally feature in a series of children's books by John Bittleson. Needless to say, after having so much fun playing the game, Sophie wants me to buy her the books to read. She's already an avid reader but this could be a great way of encouraging reluctant readers to get interested in books.
The huge online virtual world is a totally child-friendly webspace where players can travel to places around the world, through time and space, meet famous historical people, play fun mini games, make new friends, own exotic islands, build culture-inspired houses, buy all kinds of funky clothing and costumes, explore secret locations, solve ancient mysteries and become a legendary traveller, possibly even ending up in the Wiglington Hall of Fame ! The basic plot is that various historical figures have lost their memory and you have to travel the world to find them and various key items relating to them that will help them remember who they are. A word of warning - you need to click on the historical figures but also the historical items with your red historical finder target. We didn't realise this at first (I'm sure it's explained somewhere on the site but kids don't want to read all the instructions, they understandably get all excited and just want to jump straight in and play !) so we had to retrace our steps over a large part of the game to collect the items properly.
I absolutely loved the quest part of the game, especially as some of the items are really well hidden so we had to work together as a team to try to find them, spending some really fun quality mum-daughter time together. For once, I wasn't just playing to be nice and make Sophie happy, I was genuinely having fun too ! The historical figures and geographical locations are easily recognisable and I love the fact that you can go to your "wiki" page and click on the items you've found to learn more about them on online. For example, Sophie was amazed to see real pictures of pirhanas, having only ever seen them in cartoons before. She's intrigued enough to go clicking through to research the different objects which will give her lots of nuggets of geographical, historical and scientific information. The game also gives a few life lessons, such as the benefits of putting money in the bank and the need to show you can look after animals by succeeding a couple of games before being allowed to buy a pet. I also like the fact that you have warnings about online chat, such as never giving out personal information and reporting people who are nasty, although - despite various other players adding Sophie as a buddy - nobody actually engaged her in any chat at any point when we were playing.
We've been playing pretty intensively for the past few rain-filled days and we still haven't finished the main quest. I love the fact that once we've completed the main game, we can still continue to enjoy the mini games (many of which tackle themes such as ecology) thereby amassing rollars (the virtual world's currency) which Sophie has great fun spending in the shops to buy new pets, clothes and accessories. We haven't yet explored this aspect of the game but it is also possible to buy and create houses and islands, as well as join or host online parties.
The game is designed for children aged 7-14 (although I'm 37 and I'm totally hooked too !) but if you're playing with young children, I would recommend the Wiglington Home website which offers you "cheats" with complete lists of where to find the historical figures, the quest items and the wiki items. Some of them are almost impossible to find so it's good to fall back on when you really can't find the last few objects. This website also highlights hidden quests you might otherwise miss, as well as telling you of any new content in the game or the shops.
If I still haven't convinced you that it's well worth a look (and let's face it, it's free ! What have you got to lose ?!), here are some extra advantages that the game creators highlight :
- Wiglington and Wenks is one of the fastest growing virtual worlds for kids, having just launched recently during Christmas Eve 2009 but to date already garnered more than 70,000 registered users from more than 150 countries
- Wiglington and Wenks is the only virtual world which allows kids to travel and explore locations around the world probably currently the most massive virtual world for kids, with more than 200 virtual world scenes scheduled to launch by the end of 2010
- Wiglington and Wenks is an educational virtual world game that allows kids to learn about famous historical people, countries, environmental issues, countries, inventions, plants, animals and more
- Wiglington and Wenks has received rave reviews and accolades from important websites, parents, educators and kids . Here are some of them -
“In Wiglington and Wenks, kids are regaled with facts as they travel to different locations in the world. The game will appeal to kids who love adventure and to kids who enjoy exploration and discovery games.” - 4 star rating from Common Sense Media
Despite being a newly launched virtual world (December 2009), Wiglington and Wenks was nominated as one of the top 5 virtual worlds for kids by the readers of About.com, currently topping other established sites like Club Penguin.
“Wiglington and Wenks is so much more than your standard virtual world, it has a rich story line with well developed characters, plot, mystery, and quests. Students are dropped into the story and invited to participate, learning through exploration, problem solving, and critical thinking.” - Winner of the Edublog Award 2009
star rating : 5/5
RRP : free !
for more information and to sign up to play : http://www.wiglingtonandwenks.com/
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