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The Pre-Teen Set: Good Games To Give an 8-12 Year Old




This section of my site is less detailed than the children's computer games section, simply because my own children are not yet eight years old. :-) Nonetheless, based on my ample memories of my own game-playing youth, here are some recommendations for classic computer games worth passing on to pre-teens, and more recent games that make good presents for them.

The Curse of Monkey Island

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This is a great game for pre-teens--there are lots of puns and bathroom humor, no sex or violence, and plenty of fun puzzles that make you think a little. There's no action in this game, but there's plenty of wit, and the pace isn't slow or subtle like the Myst games and other adult-oriented puzzle games. A sophisticated kid may find some of the game corny or the ending somewhat unsatisfying, but I found them corny and unsatisfying myself, and still had fun playing this.

Wizardry 8

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This game makes a nice introduction to the CRPG format. It's a recent game, with modern 3D graphics and sound effects, so a pre-teen kid can enjoy it without having to put in the kind of effort it takes to adapt to an older game. The puzzles are challenging but not too difficult, and there aren't a lot of bugs to be navigated. There is one silly sex sequence near the end of the game, but it's really nothing but innuendo and a fadeout. Some light swearing ("crap" and "dammit"); nothing objectionable for a pre-teen.

Might and Magic IX

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Personally, I didn't really like this game. I thought it was rather dull, and I didn't like the interface. However, that doesn't mean your pre-teen couldn't have a lot of fun playing it--MM9 certainly does have lots of quests, puzzles, and fun character development. Frankly, I probably would have enjoyed it much more when I was eleven than I did as an adult. It beats the pants off most of the games I was playing when I was a kid. And there's nothing inappropriate for kids in this one, so I'm ignoring my own bias against it and including it here. (-:

The Longest Journey

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This is a beautiful and refreshingly original adventure game with a real sense of wonder about it; the protagonist is a spunky teenager who would absolutely appeal to kids in this age bracket. The sticking point is actually the language. This game uses just about every rude or obscene word in the English language. In every other regard this is a PG-rated show--it reminded me a little bit of the movie "Star Wars" in its overall feel--but if you don't want your kid exposed to the kind of language they bleep out on prime-time TV, take a pass on this one.

Physicus

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As a straight adventure game, Physicus is adequate but not especially interesting, but it comes with an intriguing twist: this is an educational game, aimed at kids 10-15, and it teaches real-world physics in a science-fiction setting. If you have a kid who loves science--or, conversely, one who struggles in science and could use a little extra help in a format he or she may find interesting anyway--this could be just the game for you.

Chemicus

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The sequel to Physicus, Chemicus is in the same mold, though its in-game science tutorial isn't quite as excellent as the one in Physicus. A kid who enjoys one of these games is likely to also enjoy the other, and they're educational, so there's nothing for a parent not to like. If your pre-teen enjoys science, math puzzles, or the graphic-adventure genre in general, this game might make a good present.

If you're wondering whether another popular game might be suitable for your pre-teen gamer, please feel free to check out my CRPG and adventure game pages for more reviews--I've written age-appropriateness blurbs for each of the games reviewed there. To save you some time, though, here is a list of all the games I've reviewed that I didn't consider appropriate for unsupervised kids this age, and the reasons why:

7th Guest (it's simply too buggy and dated; I don't think most kids today would enjoy it)
Arcanum (sexual content including prostitution, rape, and bestiality; unpunishable evil; opportunities to behave highly immorally)
Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn (might be okay for the most mature kids at the upper age of this bracket; too much violence and darkness otherwise)
Black and White (frustrating controls, opportunities to behave highly immorally)
The Black Mirror (extreme horror and gore, suicide)
Daggerfall (nudity, pornographic reading material, too many bugs)
Fallout 1 and 2 (violence, mature themes, opportunities to behave highly immorally)
Gabriel Knight 1, 2, and 3 (horror, violence, inappropriate religious material in GK3)
Phantasmagoria (extreme horror and gore, abusive sex)
Planescape: Torment (horror and mature themes)
Sanitarium (horror, gore, death of a child)

As always, use your own best judgment, of course. (-: Happy gaming!



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