NAME: Monster Heart Medic
WHAT IT DOES: Children learn how to maintain a healthy heart with this informative game.
HOW MUCH: Free
COMPATIBLE WITH: Apple and Android phones and tablets
WHAT'S GOOD: Designed by the University of California, Berkeley's Lawrence Hall of Science, this animated educational game for ages 10 to 13 explores the cardiovascular system and how it is affected by activities and eating habits. Through an interactive narrative (in either English or Spanish), players help Ragnar, a friendly monster, discover why he has trouble training for a marathon. Common cardiovascular conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart murmurs and high cholesterol are covered, as well as simple explanations of an electrocardiogram, stethoscope, blood pressure cuff and other devices used to diagnose heart disease.
The game encompasses both informational segments and arcade action to reinforce healthy food and lifestyle choices. Kids can even listen to the difference in the beat of a normal heart, one with a murmur and one with aortic stenosis. Simulations also show the effects of high blood pressure and high cholesterol on blood vessels. With the coins earned playing arcade games, players can purchase clothing and sneakers for Ragnar.
WHAT'S NOT: A cartoon monster seems a bit babyish for the suggested age range, especially considering the educational content. Two technological flaws were frustrating: We could not locate a quit game button and the screen will not reorient if you turn your device around.
BOTTOM LINE: Developing heart-healthy habits early will hopefully circumvent problems later in life.