My grandson sat on my lap years ago when we played Star Wars Galaxies, Dark age of Camelot and Horizons. Of course, he wasn’t very old before he thought he could play massively-multi player role playing games (MMORPG) online. He has played Disney’s Toontown, an MMORPG specifically designed for children. Now he’s really reading and has learned to use Google to find free MMORPGs he can play. Most of them are exactly what you expect for free online games although he has found a few gems. Most of those are single player flash games. The best of his finds is another MMORPG, Wizard 101.
Released in September 2008, Wizard 101 is surprisingly advanced for a child-friendly game. My partner, my grandson and I play together almost daily and have a good time doing so. There are safety checks in the interface to protect children from negative influence. Children under 13 are not allowed to participate in or read open chat. They can use drop down chat menus that cover almost all needs. Even those who are old enough to chat are restricted to words the chat interface recognizes. I didn’t need any unuseable words but found some that don’t go through like misspellings, email addresses, phone numbers, even age cannot be communicated.
Merle Ambrose, headmaster of the wizard university, has pulled your character through to his world. You have the potential to be a great wizard and combat the evil wizard, Malistaire. As you play, you help many residents of the various “worlds” you’ll visit in your pursuit of Malistaire and other evil characters. You will visit Wolfminster Abbey or Sherlock Bones might send you to Scotland Yard.
The quests are, much like all MMOs, variations on “go fetch something” or “go defeat something.” The Wizard 101 quest writers made them interesting enough that Kiddo is reading whole quest texts, no small feat for a 6 year old child. Those same quests often cause the adults to laugh, sometimes puzzling Kiddo. What’s so funny about ‘Saving Private O’Ryan,'” he asks. Or “Fairies Wear Boots?” Most quests are soloable although there are a few raid instances.
There are lots of items from slippers to hats, rings to athames (daggers) for every wizard to obtain as quest rewards or drops from enemies. The wizards train spells as they grow up and can buy one-shot spell cards for tougher combats. Some “bosses” drop very special items including rare pets. Of course, you can buy your own pet, too. From tiny dragons to ice snakes to ghosts and ninja pigs, pets are everywhere in Wizard 101.
The graphics are nice and bright, and cartoony. Animations and spell effects are remarkably well done. The game runs nicely on low end PCs. There is enough free content to achieve level 10 or so of the 50 available. After that the game costs, although relatively cheap for an MMORPG. Access passes to advanced zones cost $1-3 which is fine for a very casual player. Subscriptions are relatively cheap for those who play often; $9.95/month for one person or the family plan at $6.95 per family member.
Overall, my family has found Wizard 101 to be the most fun of the family or child oriented MMORPGs. It’s very intuitive but more sophisticated than I thought it would be when Kiddo first showed it to me. I give it a 4 ½ stars out of 5 possible for family fun playing a computer game together.
Wizard 101 Web site: http://www.wizard101.com