Review by Leslie Crenna, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2012
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Space Physics

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Clever, open-ended physics games fun but tricky

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Grades
3-8 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Open-ended gameplay and clever wheel and gear resources challenge kids to find their own solutions.

Cons: Tricky fine-motor requirements and lack of hints might lead to frustration.

Bottom Line: Kids will engage with open-ended puzzles as they experiment with simple machines and physics.

Space Physics is a simple machines and physics game with Tron-like graphics. Kids come up with limitless solutions to a single, simple challenge: Make the ball touch the star. Each puzzle presents a set of resources and obstacles, and through repeated attempts, kids get better and better at solving it. Kids can learn how slope, momentum, and gravity interact with solids, levers, gears, and wheels. An additional challenge: moon-like gravity with only select anchored solids.

By drawing lines and shapes, wheels and gears, levers and ... pretty much anything, kids frantically coax the ball forward. They can retry any number of times, and no two solutions are exactly alike. The simplest puzzle requires that kids bridge a gap by drawing a line from the ball to the star, and then tap to the side of the ball to start it rolling. A more complex puzzle has a rotating gear attached to an X. The ball falls from above, gets rotated, and must be guided to the star directly under the X. Upon startup, the app asks players to sign up for news and updates, but this is optional. Top 50 global rankings give highest level solved, time, and date. The free Pack for Space Physics must be downloaded to get all 80 levels and sounds.

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About 80 levels present some very challenging and clever puzzles to solve, but there are some problems. Drawn shapes are imprecise and irregular but easily deleted and redrawn. Creating wheels and gears can be tough –- they often turn out as circles if not precise enough. Scenarios don't end until the ball falls or touches the star, which can take quite a while. Kids will need to get in the habit of double-tapping to clean up unsuccessful attempts, and those prone to frustration might need extra guidance and support to keep them on track. A tutorial describes basic gameplay (though with numerous grammatical errors).

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Overall Rating
4

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
5

Glowing graphics, whimsical sounds, and open-ended scenarios really pull kids in. The space theme works for the subject matter.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3

Simple machines and motion are presented in a fun way that empowers kids to keep trying. Frustration could be a factor without proper guidance.

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

Tutorial covers basic gameplay, but puzzles have no hints. Players can sign up for news and updates. Top 50 global rankings give highest level solved, time, and date.


Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
David B. , School district administrator
School district administrator
Oakland Unified School District
Oakland, CA,
2
Another physics puzzle game

Space Physics is one of many apps and video games which turn physical science principles into problem solving puzzles. This one, played on a smart phone challenges the player to draw levers, wheels and slopes to get a ball toward a goal. In the classroom, this is a great way to develop students' problem solving and visual thinking faculties. Also, these kind of games can have language arts extensions: students could write "how to" manuals explaining how to solve it, or I have used it to teach how to identify and verbalize a series of causes and effects.

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