Website review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated December 2020

Little Alchemy 2

Flex alchemical muscles in amusing, discovery-based puzzler

Learning rating
Community rating
Based on 4 reviews
Privacy rating
Not yet rated Expert evaluation by Common Sense
Grades
6–12
Subjects & Skills
Science, Creativity, Critical Thinking

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Pros: It's full of experimentation and fun discoveries. The flavor text is very amusing.

Cons: Many elements look similar. Play can degrade into trial-and-error, and students may need to rely on hints to complete the game.

Bottom Line: This amusing puzzle game encourages creativity, perseverance, and systems thinking, and with creative integration it can build interest in math, science, history, and literature.

Little Alchemy 2 lends itself well to a number of subjects, but it isn't meant to teach any particular one. It could be a great option for students who finish their work early or as an optional homework assignment. For more traditional learning, teachers could have their students map out the factor trees (which will look more like webs) as they create new elements. Teachers can also latch on to elements such as a centaur, organic matter, or primordial soup and discuss how they were created in the game, and then extend that to literature, history, or science lessons.

Although the combinations of elements aren't usually scientifically accurate, they would provide a good starting point for discussing how what's represented in the game -- or actual elements -- do combine scientifically compared with the game's simplification. There are also opportunities to discuss symbolism in literature and language. At first, elements are more concrete, but over time, players discover more metaphorical ideas such as love, time, sickness, and death. Teachers could have students extend these ideas, talking about why Little Alchemy 2 equates these concepts with specific elements; students can even make their own combinations and perhaps even their own games.

Challenge students to see how many elements they can unlock. When they get stuck, encourage them to give each other hints. Have them think about what kinds of things can be mixed together in real life, or even in a fantasy world (such as a horse plus a human makes a centaur). Then use the online "cheats" to break up any frustration and get students combining again.

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Little Alchemy 2 is a puzzle game available on the web and for iOS, Chrome, and Android. It's an update of the original Little Alchemy game with more items, new art, and more. Players start with four basic "elements" -- air, earth, fire, and water -- on the right side of the screen. They can then drag and drop these elements to the workspace on the left, combining and recombining to create new elements such as puddles, energy, the planet, lizards, love, humans, zombies, robots, and farmers. There are 720 elements in total. Each new item discovered is accompanied by amusing flavor text. As long as it isn't the final element in its branch, each time an element gets created, it gets added to the column on the right and can be used in new combinations. Students can use the encyclopedia to keep track of elements they have unlocked, reread the flavor text, see the combinations that create each element, and browse by element category. The concept might sound simplistic, but it's a highly addictive experience. It's easy to lose minutes or hours figuring out new combinations and discovering new elements.

At first, students will make new connections very quickly, as most early elements combine with each other (and themselves) to make new ones. But soon only some elements are combinable, and students must think more critically about what might be possible. Most of the elements are things from real life, but some are fantastical, such as zombies, dragons, and centaurs. There's generally a logical, if not always scientific, reason for the results of combinations. For example, mixing water with air creates mist, and mixing soil with a seed creates a plant. If students try to combine two elements they've successfully combined before, the game briefly shows them what the result was. Once you've combined an item in all of its possible pairings, it becomes depleted and is removed from the available library. It is still accessible in the encyclopedia, however.

As students play, they'll reach invisible goals that unlock new basic materials, such as metal, which can then mix with many existing elements. For example, mixing metal with a duck creates an airplane. There are also elements that aren't things at all, such as "big" and "time" and "motion." Additionally, sometimes combining two elements creates more than one new element, such as when combining two humans to make both love and a family.

Little Alchemy 2, in its own unique way, lets students learn through discovery and experimentation. While it's not a product designed for content learning, it offers an irresistibly fun experience that can lead to content learning if teachers are flexible. For instance, teachers could use Little Alchemy 2 to discuss how things combine in real life vs. in the game, or the logic behind certain combinations. As the game gets more difficult, students will need to use their creativity, systems thinking, and educated guesses to discover new combinations. Combining air and animal, for example, creates a bird, so many of the combinations are logical, but many are less straightforward. After a while, few elements will combine, so students will learn patience and how to curb their frustration.

Since Little Alchemy 2 is an open-ended sandbox puzzle game, it can be a boon to classroom learning, or it might lead to playful chaos. Students can easily get through the game through trial-and-error (at least to a point). It would be helpful to wrangle the trial-and-error a bit, by encouraging students to approach play more thoughtfully. Students could map and diagram their choices, or talk through their logic and engage in prediction. There's not much support for this approach in the game itself, though, which could frustrate some teachers. However, teachers more comfortable with the open-ended nature of the game -- and doing some extra work to guide students to learning -- will find the experience inspiring, useful, and engaging in a way few more traditional educational games can be.

Overall Rating

Engagement

The addictive sandbox puts students in control as they mix and remix elements to create new -- sometimes humorous -- combinations. Difficulty increases as students explore complex possibilities.

Pedagogy

Critical thinking, creativity, and a sense of humor will help players do well in this game. Students' perseverance and lateral thinking will be tested, but more structured content learning is left to creative teachers.

Support

The website includes general strategy hints but also a "cheat" section that shows students exactly what needs to be combined to create specific elements. Using these tips strategically can help students who get stuck.


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Featured review by
Megan M. , Other
Other
Sugar Creek Elementary
Fort Mill, United States
Create your own unicorn and zombie with Little Alchemy
I think it is a fun and addictive game. You quickly find yourself lost in it while you create a unicorn, zombie, or simply outer space. While I didn't directly teach the game to my students, I did need to circulate and expose some students to a few of the features. Some of the computers in my lab would save previous students' progress and students needed to know how to reset the game. I'm always looking for the next, new game to show my students and this was one they enjoyed - at school and home.
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