By Lars Olsen

A mysterious seedling has just crash-landed on an alien planet, and it is up to you to grow it to full maturity while holding off hostile indigenous threats. Rizk, a game by the London Science Museum, is an entertaining and educational twist on the classic 2-D tower defense genre, focusing on resource management.

It tasks you, a celestial botanist, with collecting natural resources that both nourish your plant and provoke alien threats. Resources of higher yield trigger greater alien threats. You must strategically place Defenders to shield your plant from threats until the plant reaches full bloom. The game gives educational tips, like: “In both Rizk and the real world, managing risk is made difficult by uncertainty and cost.” Resources also give you coins which you must prudently spend to build, upgrade, or repair your arsenal of resource Collectors and Defenders.

Rizk demonstrates how external developments can easily upset a delicate ecological balance, which makes Rizk an excellent educational tool for real-world resource management. The resources you must collect represent fossil fuels, hydro power, and wind power. Fossil fuels provide the best short-term payoff, but generate larger threats to your “civilization” than hydro or wind power. These themes could be elaborated upon with a post-game discussion about climate change in order to fully explore the subject.

This is a highly entertaining game, but only if you are playing for a short duration. It took me about 90 minutes to finish the game, but having students play for 15-30 minutes would get the point across well enough. The graphics are very clean and the game’s difficulty is well-tuned, but I had to remove my headset because the repetitive sound was maddening. The game is likely too complex and challenging for younger children, but I would recommend it to middle and high school level students (ages 13-18).

I find that many educational games focus excessively on the quantity of information portrayed which ends up diminishing the entertainment value. Rizk has done a great job of prioritizing entertainment, but it also does not have much to teach. Despite the shallowness of the game’s scientific rigor, Rizk is a great way to educate through subterfuge.

Rizk is an enjoyable way to prompt discussions about risk-versus-reward and the dangers of resource exploitation. Although not the most intellectual of games, it provides an overall engaging experience.

Gameplay/Fun: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Educational: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Scientific Rigor: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Accessibility: Ages 13-18
Platform: Web browser

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