Crazy Plant Shop
What does it teach?
Crazy Plant Shop is a browser-based game where you learn about inheritance and how dominant and recessive genes work.
What do you do?
You are running a plant shop where you buy, sell and breed different types of plants. An assortment of customers visits your store with specific requests for plants. To satisfy them, you order plants from a catalog and then breed the plants to create offspring with the desired traits. Every order you fulfill earns you money that you will need to spend in the plant catalog to further increase your breeding stock.
In essence, the game is shop sim with a Punnett squares game mechanic which teaches you the basics of gene expression.
Do you learn anything?
The game is really just a shop sim with a thin educational coating. You will spend most of your time and brain power on boring administrative duties like inventory management and time management. This is not only boring, it is also a very inefficient way of learning.
While logistics as a game mechanic does not seem congenial to the subject of genetics, there actually is some synergy as you have to think in terms of genes, rather than the observable qualities of your plants, in order to offer your customers the most combinations of plants using the least amount of breeding stock (store space) and breeding attempts (energy). This is commendable and a pretty rare thing in educational games.
You don’t really improve your score the more you learn about genetics though. To do well in the game you only need to understand the very basic principles of breeding. The key to do better is then just a case of honing your logistics, not honing your knowledge or your understanding of the breeding process. This is really a game about store management not a game about science.
The production values are very impressive. The art style is pleasant and there is sort of a story to experience through interaction with the numerous characters that visit your store. Depending on your disposition (and age) it might motivate you or distract you from playing the game.
The point of educational games is surely to make learning fun, not make it (even more) boring by mixing it with ultra-boring administrative work. The game is also pretty confusing and hard to learn even though the genetics involved are very basic. If you go into the game without already grasping the concept of a Punnett Square, you will likely not get very far.
Ola Hansson, 16 September 2014