Review: Ava and Avior Save the Earth (Wii U eShop)

Toxic waste

A good educational video game needs to be both enriching and fun for the player. While 2020 Venture's Ava and Avior Save the Earth may sound like a good idea — it attempts to teach children about recycling, composting and getting rid of waste in a "green" way — it fails in almost every regard. With amateurish presentation and rudimentary gameplay that borders on broken, the "educational" aspect of Ava and Avior is completely ineffective. If Ava and Avior are the future of educational gaming, Putt-Putt and Pajama Sam are surely rolling in their graves.

In Ava and Avior Save the Earth, the player has to grab floating trash and place it into the correct bins. Each level is one screen long and only lasts a minute or so, and is preceded by one of the two titular floating children giving a "lesson" of sorts about taking out the trash. These lessons are usually no more than one sentence. Each level plays out exactly the same way: put the foods in the compost bin, the batteries in the hazard bin and the papers and plastic items in the recycling bin. There is some merit to teaching kids how to appropriately dispose of garbage, but that's all there is to the game — there is nothing about littering, or what trash does to the environment if not disposed of correctly. After every level, players are awarded a "pet," which acts a sort of achievement system, and then get to play a bonus level that consists of grabbing falling coins, popping balloons or shooting asteroids. These bonus levels are in no way educational, and is are a missed opportunity to further enrich the player.

Most will buy Ava and Avior for their children expecting to use the GamePad, and while the GamePad is an option, the title was clearly built with a Wii Remote in mind. Grabbing items and placing them in the correct bins is extremely frustrating when using the GamePad stylus; rather than just tapping and dragging, the player has to make sure they're dragging the hand cursor to the item they want, then place it in the correct bin. The unwieldy controls had us irritated and will likely enrage kids used to touch-screen gaming. The bins, meanwhile, are constantly opening and closing, making placing a plastic bottle into the recycling bin a tedious (and infuriating) chore. Hit detection during the bonus levels is similarly clunky, with the hand cursor not responding to the stylus quick enough.

Both Ava and her little brother Avior float in the background of every level, and while they give the player hints, like "Try again!" or "Nope, not that one!" they quickly become annoying. Their computerized, disembodied voices are off-putting, with Avior's voice borderline-unsettling. In later levels, Ava and Avior are strategically placed in what we can only assume the developer thought would be clever places, such as outside the window of an airplane, which will surely give children of all ages nightmares. The graphics are of shareware clip-art quality, and some of the items are so blandly detailed that even adults will place them in the wrong bins. There are even typos in the small amount of text present; for an educational game, this is totally unacceptable.

Conclusion

Ava and Avior Save the Earth is a missed opportunity to teach kids about the environment. Unsuspecting parents will no doubt be angered after realizing that this "educational" game is nothing more than a cynical cash grab. With plenty of educational titles for the DS, 3DS, Wii and mobile platforms, gamers of all ages are advised not to waste their money on garbage like this.

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