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<firstimage=”//static.makeuseof.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/intro5.jpg”>Children’s games often try to both educate and entertain but sometimes can miss the mark completely. Console games aren’t exactly cheap, and you’re not always guaranteed a playable demo before you commit to purchase.
Bin Weevils is a free, somewhat massively multiplayer children’s game that uses Adobe Flash to run a virtual world in your web browser. The option to pay a subscription for extra perks exists, though there’s so much to do you might never need to. As with any online children’s service, online safety is paramount and the developers have provided a guide for parents, with frequently asked questions, subscription information and a safety page.
Concepts & Ideas
As with most children’s games, parents are often more interested in the game’s underlying concepts and ideas than gameplay and graphics. Bin Weevils seems to have got it right, encouraging all manner of green, healthy and social interactions.
In order to satiate the three demands of your Bin Weevil – hunger, fitness and happiness – you must explore the world, meet new people, visit specific areas and expand your influence. In addition to this Sims-like chart of demands, there is a levelling system and currency called “Mulch”.
XP is earned with everything you do, from harvesting plants in the garden to beating other Weevils at multiplayer games. The levelling system is essentially there to maintain the game’s steady pace, with higher levels enabling the purchase of other seeds and goods.
As your Weevil levels up he will learn new special moves, which you can show off to other inhabitants. These special moves are used to build up fitness, and essentially count as exercise.
As a Bin Weevil you must keep fit, socialise and eat whilst developing your character and ultimately a circle of friends. Child friendly? Check.
Home Sweet Home
Being a kids game, Bin Weevils doesn’t require an email address to sign up and get started. You are given the option once you’ve customized your Weevil to register a parent’s email address which credits the account with 2000 mulch (in addition to the 1000 you start with). Creating your first character is as easy as clicking Play then Get Started, entering a username and password then clicking Play Now.
Your character will appear before you in a small area known as your nest. From here you can access your initial room (on the left) exit to your garden (through the tube) or using the Map button visit anywhere you please.
The garden is a fairly standard affair and you’re given one “speedy” seed to begin with. This seed will grow in 15 minutes, after which you’re able to harvest the goods for money and XP. Seeds can take days to grow (Bin Weevil days, not real-time), and once the player has reached a high enough level a watering can is available to keep certain plants alive indefinitely.
From the garden screen you can click Buy Seeds and choose from a selection of seeds, bulbs and other items. As well as the aforementioned watering can, items such as fencing and solar panelling can be purchased once your Bin Weevil has reached the required level. The nest itself consumes power, and additional fuel can be purchased by clicking on the generator in the main room.
The main room also allows access to your room. This is a room that you can decorate and use any way you’d like, with furniture and other items available for sale throughout the Weevil world. To start you off you’re given a shelf and a birthday egg, which marks the date your created your character.
Beyond The Nest
Clicking on Map will give you a brief view of the activities available to you, including shopping, word puzzles and a meet and greet area known as Ink’s Orange Peel. Here players can chat using the text area at the bottom of the screen and leave messages on the message board.
You can start customizing and then activate your Bin Weevil by clicking Change Your Bin Weevil on this screen. There are plenty of options to choose from to make your character unique, and when you’re done you can exit through the door on the right to activate your Weevil.
One of the more interestingly implemented features is streaming video. The game itself is based on a series of Nickelodeon shorts, and these are viewable from the cinema. As a free member you’ll only get one screen but this struck me as a novel way to present streaming video; especially given the target audience.
Games like Weevil Racing, a fully 3D online multiplayer kart racer, allow you to compete against other Bin Weevils for money and XP. Other games include crosswords and wordsearches, brain teasers, whack-a-Weevil and a variant of pool. This is only the tip of the iceberg, there are plenty of other areas including a park, mall, a club and the subscribers-only Tycoon Island.
Subscribing provides access to extra features including pets, access to new areas, additional screens in the cinema and a big deposit of mulch (20,000). The free option here is certainly substantial enough to encourage repeat playings, however.
I’m 24 and I enjoyed playing around with Bin Weevils, trust me – your kids are going to love it. The brightly coloured characters, worlds and 3D elements are a treat to look at and there’s loads to do, even without paying.
Mixing elements from games like Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing with instant online gaming results in a feature-packed timewaster that might even teach your little sprogs a thing or two.
Have you or your children tried Bin Weevils? Any other similar games out there? Let us know in the comments below.