Review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2016
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Busy Water

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Solve, create, and share puzzles that gush with STEM learning

Subjects & skills
  • Science

  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: Challenging puzzles and a build mode let kids experiment in a totally different perspective.

Cons: Minimal help to learn the gameplay, and no help for solving difficult puzzles may frustrate some kids.

Bottom Line: This challenging yet kid-friendly set of logic puzzles wonderfully allows kids to solve problems and experiment with light science concepts.

Though Busy Water is easily accessible for kids, there is a learning curve to get the hang of everything the game does. Give students a general overview, but mostly let them explore the levels on their own or even in pairs or small groups. This is a good opportunity to let kids who are more advanced in solving these kinds of puzzles mentor kids who are less so. Work with students to help them create their own customized levels and share them with classmates; set up a class competition to engage students in challenging each other. Bring communication skills into play by having kids spell out their problem-solving process in writing or by explaining it to a classmate.

Take learning offline as well by exploring the properties introduced in the games; experiment with water and its different states. Build water-transfer contraptions, marble runs, or other engineering-type puzzles.

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Busy Water is a logical puzzle-solving game where a tricky cat has unplugged Archie the fish's tank. Through over 100 levels, kids put together pipes, experiment with water in its various states, and use wheels, ropes, rotating planks, and gravity to safely direct Archie to his aquarium. Higher levels unlock only after kids successfully complete previous levels.

The create mode allows kids to design their own levels and share them with friends through a special code. Play earns "algae," which kids can use to unlock special outfits for Archie. The settings menu features a parent's guide that details game instructions and offers some extension ideas.

With Busy Water, there's a lot that encourages students to discover, experiment, and stretch out their problem-solving skills through reasoning puzzles that touch on engineering and other STEM concepts. Archie the fish is a great, kid-friendly protagonist whose adventures are accompanied by sweet graphics and incredibly realistic -- maybe even too much so -- sound effects.

Kids have unlimited chances to keep trying each level until they can pass it, though fewer attempts earn more "algae" points. Except for the very earliest levels -- which are a little slow to build in complexity -- there are often multiple ways to solve each level, and since kids never fail a level, there's also room to improve or try something different. It can be frustrating when kids get stuck, and it would be nice to see some help or hints if that happens. The build mode is especially interesting because it puts kids in the driver's seat and lets them unleash their creativity as they experience gaming, logic, and reasoning from a completely different perspective.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

With over 100 levels and a collection of different tools, kids have plenty of puzzles to challenge themselves. Even better, when they get tired of solving someone else's puzzle, they can create their own and share with friends.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Physics, engineering, reasoning, and problem-solving concepts are presented through levels that get increasingly more complex. Kids learn through trial and error and free experimentation.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

There's a thorough parents' guide in the settings menu, though kids get only minimal how-to instruction. Kids easily track their progress through completed levels and the customized level gallery.

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