Online Game Review: Germinator

fetch!Germinator is a free online game associated with the PBS Series Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman. The TV show was funded primarily by the National Science Foundation and ran from 2006-2010. Episodes from all 5 seasons are currently streaming on the PBS Kids site along with 25 different games featuring Ruff Ruffman.

The main object of the game Germinator is to infect the bad guys: Crumpet, Trumpet, Dump-It and Nelson. You are a germ travelling through the mouth and into the blood stream. By infecting all four bad guys you will prevent them from more evil-doing and rack up some points along the way. You can save these points by creating a user account. The points are interchangeable with other Fetch! games, though not all games have points. For example, in WHOAHler Coaster the objective is to build a functioning roller coaster and the caption reads “Sorry, no points! Just fun making roller coasters.”

Fetch! is meant for kids ages 6 through 12, but Germinator will likely appeal to the younger crowd and underwhelm anyone older than 7. The only manipulation used in this game is navigating your germ through the body using the arrow keys. The functions of the game are very simple, but the clever details add interest. For example, in the first round as you make your way into the mouth of Villain #1, you must dodge clumps of spit shaped like octopi and airborne bottles of mouthwash. Further, Ruff Ruffman is charming and over the top. In the introduction he wears a dog collar and jokes that he is “sick as a dog.”

In addition to games, trivia, and behind-the-scenes podcasts, there is also a Parents & Teachers portal that outlines the goals of the series and provides activities and lesson plans that go along with the show. Germinator is only a small portion of the Fetch! franchise, but fits with the overall learning objectives.

germIn a review for Common Sense Media, Larisa Wiseman writes that “Fetch! is a truly original series that’s great fun to watch — especially for young viewers interested in science or anyone who loves a good scavenger hunt.” Germinator has similar appeal and the greatest strength of this game is that it provides scientific context (learning about the human body) in an entertaining way. Children will enjoy this game because it’s not overtly educational. Ruff Ruffman is loud and funny, the sound effects are goofy, and there’s more than enough snot to go around. However, the creators don’t shy away from using terms like “macrophage” and “antibodies” and there’s plenty to be learned here.

-Leanne Mobley

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