Review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2014
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Spirits of Spring

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Beautiful design, great story, stunning sound in powerful SEL allegory

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Character & SEL

Subjects
N/A
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
5-8
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Pros: Gorgeous visuals and stunning soundscape provide a consistently engaging experience with a subtle and solid message.

Cons: Some might find the message a little obscure.

Bottom Line: With good context, a subtle, smart tool for exploring SEL topics with kids.

Encourage kids to play the game alone or in pairs. Have them discuss similarities and differences among the characters. Talk with kids about what different elements in the story (foxes, crows, permanent winter) represent. Discuss what lessons this game offers about bullying and friendship. 

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Kids follow Chiwatin, a young boy, and his friends Bear and Rabbit as they're terrorized by a group of marauding crows. In addition to laughing maniacally at Chiwatin and his friends, the crows are violent and destructive, alternately capturing and tormenting forest animals and destroying spirit trees. Without the spirit trees, springtime itself is threatened, and the risk of permanent winter looms as the crows grow more powerful.

Chiwatin and his friends roam through the games' four levels, encountering other animals and new tasks along the way. The game helpfully introduces new gestures (like how to collect spirits and how to use spirits to bridge streams) just when they're needed, and these introductions are thoughtfully paced so kids can confidently control Chiwatin and his friends in a variety of ways by the game's last stages. 

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The game's design is exceptionally well done. Visuals and game controls are thoughtfully conceived; it's noticeably easier to control the rabbit and the bear, and this turns out to be a key detail. The crows taunt Chiwatin for being clumsy, and kids experience that frustration firsthand as they move Chiwatin through the game with various levels of success. On the surface, the game is a series of just-right challenging puzzles; details suggest subtle, smart messages about friendship, bullies, power, and empathy.

This game works best with some serious context: Messages aren't explicit (for example, what do springtime and permanent winter represent?), and there's limited reason to replay the game. But bigger picture issues about the value of friendship come through clearly and elegantly, making this a great tool for solo exploration and a strong vehicle for SEL classroom discussions.

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Overall Rating

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

Kids will be engrossed in the beautiful visuals, challenging puzzles, and fascinating story. The soundtrack is especially good.

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

Important SEL topics, including friendship, bullying, power, and loyalty, are covered without being too heavy-handed.

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

In-game tutorials help kids figure out new skills, and checkpoints help them gauge their progress through levels.


Common Sense Reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

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