Review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated July 2014
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Hoopa City

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Delightful, discovery-based worldbuilding encourages critical thinking

Subjects & skills

  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
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Pros: Kids can create a seemingly endless variety of buildings and settings.

Cons: Lacks the capability to save multiple worlds.

Bottom Line: Offers kids endless hours of fun as they explore, discover, and plan to create an original world.

Hoopa City is fun enough to be offered as a play-day activity station for kids, but it can also be incorporated into the curriculum to encourage creativity, critical thinking, and cooperation. Kids could spend some undirected time playing on their own, then the teacher could facilitate sharing and discussion about what they've created and how. The classroom will buzz with excitement and ideas as kids share what they've built with different combinations and settings. To extend the challenge, kids could create settings from books they've read, or create a world as a pre-writing activity and then develop a story set in that world. Kids can also have thoughtful discussions about how and why they think different combinations create different buildings. Why does combining bricks and love create a school? Why would love and money combine to make city hall, or bricks and energy make a movie theater?

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Play starts slowly, with green grass, a blue sky, and a short strip of road. As kids explore, tap, and build more roads, building tools are added, two at a time, until kids can build with love, money, energy, roads, bricks, water, and nature -- and use a shovel to remove what they've built. Each tool, used alone, builds something specific -- bricks build houses, love builds hospitals, and so on -- but tools can also be combined to build a variety of structures and settings. Kids explore to discover what they can build as they create a whole new world. 

Simply creating an original world is certainly fun and valuable play, but Hoopa City becomes mind-blowingly fun and educationally valuable as kids explore to figure out all the exciting and significant building possibilities. They get to discover on their own that bricks and love build a school, that leaves and energy build a sports stadium and track, and that combining four playgrounds creates an amusement park. The options seem endless. This isn't really a game kids can fully enjoy and experience in short bursts, though. To really get excited and maximize discovery, they need longer chunks of creative playtime. Fortunately, worlds save automatically, so if kids can only play in short spurts, they at least can pick back up right where they left off. Unfortunately, only one world can be saved on a device, so multiple kids can't create different worlds on the same device.

Overall Rating

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

Kids will have a blast discovering all they can build -- from beaches and Christmas trees to amusement parks and universities. The design doesn't allow a total restart, though, and saves only one world at a time.

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

Kids are empowered to create a world and then watch characters experience that world, running on a track or rowing in a lake, for example. Kids must think critically to decide what each tool or tools might create.

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

Kids are free to explore the open-play environment with no rules or instructions, and no reading required. Play saves automatically, so kids can simply continue building their worlds.

Common Sense Reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher

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