Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2017
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Cell Strike

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Fight infections on compelling biology-based missions

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Science
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
4-12
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Pros: Striking graphics, thorough facts, a helpful tutorial, and intriguing gameplay will keep students trying to complete levels.

Cons: Learning curve after level 2 is steep, game levels last a long time and students may get fatigued.

Bottom Line: Cell Strike is a fun and efficient way for students to learn about how components of the immune system work, with a bonus lesson in strategy.

Cell Strike has much potential to educate and involve students in their biology lessons. Be sure to play the game yourself first, to develop some strategies for helping your students later. In class, begin by giving students a background in how the immune system and infection work with and against each other. Then, go over the Help section of the app with students, orienting them to the game mechanics, goal, and some basic strategy. Next, allow them to play the game through Level 2. Going over the Help section again after Level 2 will mean more to students since they'll now be familiar with all the game components and how they move. After they're completely oriented, have them play through the other levels. Since these are much more challenging than the first two, students can share strategy tips and compete to see who can complete levels in the fastest times. They can also replay the first two levels to practice using the different kinds of cells.

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Cell Strike is a biology app that models the immune system of the human body. Its 3D environment simulates the immune response that occurs when the body has a small wound. Bacteria can enter the wound, and the body's immune system reacts. Players act as that immune system in this real-time game, sending out helper cells to kill the bacteria and heal wounds. The immune system response cells ("good guys") are round and blue while the bacteria ("bad guys") are prickly and purple. Players also collect antigens with their "good guy" cells, saving them up to make more specialized cells that fight infection. Once students collect enough, they can train adaptive Specialists, who are the most effective way to defeat the bacteria. Other cells in students' arsenal are Scouts, who travel quickly and pick up antigens; Engineers, who seal open wounds; and Killers, who are easier to make than the Specialists and are also designed to defeat the bacteria.

The game screen includes a map in the corner, showing players where their cells are and what areas still need to be uncovered. More than one cell can be moved at a time, and students will need to establish more than one front to defeat the bacteria. The learning curve here is pretty steep, and students need to work quickly to send out enough immune cells to complete the level. Levels 3-5 give star ratings based on how long it takes to finish each level, but even if students don't complete levels fast enough to earn a star, the next level will still unlock. After completing each level, players unlock a new data card, giving more detail into one of the major cells in the game, including a picture from a microscope.

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Cell Strike is a fantastic and enjoyable opportunity for learning in two main ways. First, it's a lesson in how the immune system works, focused on bacteria entering wounds and the response to fight it off. Students get to know each kind of cell very well as they customize their offensive and defensive strategies. Second, since levels 3-5 are quite challenging, students will need to develop several different strategies for killing the bacteria and completing the levels. Students will likely need to play each level more than once before they master the controls and optimize their game strategy and skills. Through this repetition, they will internalize the inherent biology lessons. Younger students may need help with their strategy development, though students with experience in real-time resource management and battle game tactics will have a head start.

As students play, the game doesn't give much feedback on how to improve. That will take some trial and error, but the game could be enhanced with an option during gameplay that would give tips for when students are starting to lose ground.

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Overall Rating
4

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

This hands-on infection damage control game puts the power of the immune system in students' hands as they work to heal wounds and eliminate bacteria. Fun graphics and clear goals keep kids engaged.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
4

This app teaches biological concepts and game strategy as students try out each level. The steep learning curve may force students to replay levels multiple times, eventually making them experts in the subject matter.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
3

The informative and detailed help screens teach students about the app's subject matter and game controls. Two tutorial lessons orient students, but the remaining levels will require persistence and multiple strategies to complete.


Common Sense Reviewer
Jenny Bristol Homeschooling parent

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