| Non-violent world and gameplay
Safe Chat for young children
| Cost of Funkeys
Mini-games can be addictive
UB Funkeys is a collectible toy MMOG-light kids game made by Mattel and Arkadium. Similar to some other toy-web integrated games, you have to purchase a toy in order to activate a similar online avatar. However, unlike some other games of this genre, there is no requirement for regular log-ins, creature maintenance, items that provide limited access time, or a subscription.
Where shall we start?
In order to access the game, you require UB - the USB critter that plugs into your computer, and the smaller, more colorful Funkeys. The Funkey sits on UB's hollow back and contact plates on its feet transmit data to the base. Your online avatar changes to that particular Funkey on the fly. Strong magnets connect the Funkey to UB and little hands will manage to do that quite well.
The UB Funkey starter pack costs about $20 and consists of UB, the software and two funkeys which give you access to a portal or two and their Funkey house. The starter pack as well as additional Funkeys can be purchased at your big-box stores such as Wal-Mart, Walgreens and Targets as well as online retailers. Once your software is installed and your game patched, off you go into the world of Terrapina.
Targeted toward children of eight and above, UB Funkey is a collections, chat and mini-games world. There is no hack and slash. None. Much to the chagrin of my nephew the first time I fired this game up. He'd expected some WoW and EQ2-esque adventures. Sorry kiddo, the most violent thing you get to do is fire at records as they fly through the air, or hurl stars and balls at falling objects.
The user interface is suitably simple for the target age group, with colorful representative icons. The world icon on the bottom right opens up your world map, which is grayed out until you've explored the area, and shows your position on it. The house icon takes you to your crib from anywhere in Terrapina. The patch message tells you to hold on while the program checks to see if there is anything new in Terrapina, then tells you to wait while it puts it in the right place, in a large font and simple language. When you encounter something new in the storyline or a new feature for the first time, the game goes into cutscene and voice-over mode. Movement is simple point and click and most functions in game are accessed with the mouse. Games are accessed by standing your Funkey on the game pad and shops by standing in front of the shop counter.
Each Funkey activates different portals to different lands and provide access to their own "house" and mini-game. Like any other MMO, Mattel updates the game on a regular basis. The world and the storyline evolves and changes. Some new areas open up that do not require a new Funkey to unlock although new portals that require the purchase of a new Funkey (approximately $6) are also released.
Features that have been introduced include the discovery of friendly Kooties who just love you! However, their love makes you a little messy and you'll have to get a wash every so often or you'll trail a cloud of dirt behind you, much like Pigpen did in Charlie Brown's world. If you're too dirty, you may be denied access into the various houses.
The world of Terrapina is colorful, and contains many animated items. Each realm is accessed through portals which can be activated by several different Funkeys. The worlds range from a Nightmare Realm to Speedracer's world, to tropical Funkiki Island. Each has interactive items, as well as wash stations to wash off the friendly Kootie dirt. These could be fountains, steam baths and even an icky "lick pit" in the Nightmare Riff where a huge monster tongue or maggots came to clean you up.
The Party zone is where players can hang out with their chat Funkeys, make friends and chat with other players using the menu chat system. There is absolutely no free chat, and the menu system also has emoticons, jokes and the ability to string short phrases together to form a longer sentence. A skill obviously mastered by many kids, given the conversation that flew past when I hung out there. Although it's open chat in the Party zone, you'll often be asked to be a friend. This is because friends can challenge each other to multi-games. These are games accessed by the multiplayer Funkeys in their respective houses and lands and also in some of the free access zones. If you buy a cell-phone with in-game coins, you can also chat on the fly.
As all children know, in every world, there are good guys and bad guys. The bad guy in Terrapina is Master Lox and his Henchmen. Henchmen wander around the realms and there is no escaping them. When they catch you, they shake you down. Luckily, you can mitigate the number of coins you lose by playing a mini-game and you can never lose more than 20 coins at a time.