Abylight brings the world of bacteria to life with a fun little DsiWare title called AfterZoom. Using the Dsi camera as a microscope, gamers can find and capture germs, pit them against each other in battle, and grow more and more germs to fight. Is the whole idea kind of icky, or can Abylight make even germs fun?
The basic premise of AfterZoom is quite simple. Rather mysteriously, it has been discovered that the camera of the Dsi makes a wonderful microscope that can detect various micro-organisms that would otherwise be undetectable. You must use the camera to zoom in on various items around your house, neighborhood, school, etc. in order to find more and more germs to capture. Now, my kids have argued rather righteously that I am mistaken about this, but the Dsi camera can’t really detect germs and bacteria. Regardless of whether your kids actually believe the camera is a microscope or not, the idea of zooming in on seemingly innocuous surfaces to find all kinds of bacteria is a cool concept for them to learn.
Zooming in on different items is the real catch here for most kids. Mine were running all around the house, finding bacteria on the cat, the computer, the litterbox (eeew), and each other’s tongues, to name just a few. Trying to find new and different types of germs got them excited, and it really got them moving around. While some of the bacteria may offer you hints of where to find them (fond of blue textiles, try the grass, etc.), many are entirely a mystery until you come across them. Add to that the fact that there are quite a lot of different germs, and it makes for quite an engaging game.
So what do you do with the germs when you find them? Well, first you have to capture them. This is done by zooming in on the bacteria, and centering your scope right over the top of them. You must hold it on top until the outer edge of the scope fills up. This isn’t always easy, as the germs are generally moving around while you are doing this. Once you have done this, you must use your other germs to fight it in order to capture it. You are timed, and you have to use a bit of strategy, as certain types of germs are stronger against other types. For instance, using the same germ against itself rarely produces good results. You can send as many germs at the opponent as you like, but you only have as many as you have captured, so if you aren’t a bit thrifty you’ll soon run out, leaving you none left to capture other bacteria. Once you defeat your opponent, it becomes part of your collection.
The collection aspect of AfterZoom reminded me immediately of those games on Facebook where you have to feed your fish/pet/mongoose every certain number of hours or they die. Same goes for AfterZoom. If you feed your collection often, they will cultivate more and more, giving you a virtual army of bacteria in which to find ever more specimens. Wait too long to feed them, though, and you’ll end up with a very meager supply. Feeding them isn’t just a simple “click this button” and you’re done sort of thing. Different types of bacteria eat different things, and they won’t all need feeding at the same time (although you can feed them and fill up their meter whenever you like).
The food for your specimens is collected in two different ways. Elements like oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, etc. are collected during the camera zooms, and you’ll need to collect lots of them as your collection grows. Some bacteria eat just an element, and so feeding them is as simple as doling that element out until their meter is full. Others need something a little more fancy, and that’s when you head to the lab. Here you will mix more complex elements using the base elements you have already collected. A recipe book tells you the right combination of elements in percentages, for example 27% of one and 67% of another. You’ll need to mix up the correctly to get the desired result. You can mix hydrogen and oxygen to make water, or carbon and oxygen to make carbon dioxide, and so forth (a nice little touch of education there as well.)
The controls on AfterZoom are quite simple. You use the shoulder buttons to zoom in and out when using your microscope. The picture is automatically taken when you start to zoom; no button pushing necessary. You use the stylus to guide your scope around, select battling bacteria, feed, and basically everything else. The simple controls make it quite easy for even very young children to pick up and play.
AfterZoom is a neat little downloadable title that really gives you your 500 points worth. For $5, your kids will be growing their own bacteria colonies, mixing elements, and taking pictures of absolutely everything in your house. As an adult, I found it to be a somewhat addicting little game that doesn’t take too much thought. My children, though, absolutely adored it. It is a rare game that can captivate a a variety of ages equally, but AfterZoom seems to have hit that high note quite well. I give AfterZoom an 8 out of 10, and recommend it for your little budding scientists.