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Food Force

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs




Copyright 2005, UN World Food Programme

One of the best freeware edutainment titles I have seen in a long time, Food Force is a great game for kids developed by Italy-based Deepend and UK-based PlayerTree for the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP). Developed for kids aged 8-13 to teach them about the WFP goals and processes, Food Force is a fun game that will captivate players of all ages despite being relatively short (I finished the game in 3 hours). This great review at Water Cooler Games says it all about why everyone should take a look at this interesting and timely game that looks at an incredibly important global issue:

“Finally! An educational game that rocks! Informative, well produced and very enjoyable to play with. Go United Nations! Food Force was just launched and it is definitively worth the 200 meg download (full versions available for free for Windows and Mac).

The game consists of several different missions, with animated and video cutscenes in between. Unlike what happens in many videogames, the cutscenes are not there to show off graphics but rather to give valuable information. And what it is best, the designers were able to overcome the most common trap of educational games: they keep a good balance between game and info, so you never get the impression that you are watching either a bad movie nor playing a bad game.

Technically, the game has a very high standard. It is eye-catching and compelling, ideal for grabbing the attention of children (and grown-ups like myself, too). Basically, the different missions allow you to understand all the different aspects of a humanitarian aid program. How to estimate the amount of help needed, designing the perfect diet, getting funding, delivering the food under harsh conditions and educating people so they can get their own crops in the future.

Some minigames are better than others, but all of them are interesting. You also have to keep in mind that replayability should not be a major concern in this sort of games. Still, most of the games are fun enough to be replayed several times. The results are never black or white, but teach the player that things can be improved and encourage them to try again. Some minigames are particularly well done. I love the first mission, where you have to spot the refugees from your helicopter. You get facts from a voice-over that does not interrupt your gameplay and does not overload you with info, neither (who said designers cannot learn anything from GTA3‘s radio feature? :) The biggest temptation for educational game designers is to fill the game with loads of info -and in text form. The designers behind Food Force know their trade and it shows, since text is only present when needed.

Overall, I am extremely happy for this game, it is an excellent example of the way edutainment should be: Fun, not trying to include the whole curriculum inside the game and well balanced in terms of info and gameplay. The only small problem that I have found so far is on the level where you drop the food from a plane. A friend told me that she didn’t like that it didn’t have a parachute and I think she has a point, but my observation was about the interface. There is an arrow that tells you the direction of the wind, but it doesn’t get updated until the last moment, so you may actually drop your food based on the previous wind measurement. A small bug that can be easily fixed in a future revision.

Comments? Well, I love the fact that the game is available for two platforms. It was developed in Director, an environment with many positive things and also many problems (no Linux version is one of them). I also think that these projects should be open-source, specially because it would be great to language them for non-English speakers. But, again, these are just details that I am sure will be taken care of in future projects. Right now, what you have to do is get a broadband connection and download the game. By the way, I was chatting with a friend and sent her the link. She laughed and replied: “_I had lunch with the developers yersterday!”. It’s a small world, after all :)

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