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Game Review

If you want to get kids to focus on something, stick it in a video game. At least that's the modern reasoning. After all, the Entertainment Software Association tells us that some 150 million people in the U.S. are regularly mashing game buttons—which covers just about everybody except those folks who are already too busy binge-watching Netflix.

What I'm saying is that games are king in this country, and the gamemakers at Scarlet City Studios have decided to create an attention magnet of their own … to encourage kids to think about godly things instead of all those other things.

The Fog of War-Lite

The Aetherlight: Chronicles of the Resistance is an online game that mashes up point-and-click play with lots of crafting puzzles and RPG-like turn-based battles, setting it all on your computer screen in a colorful steampunk world. It invites kids into this place called Aethasia and implores them to get right to work (which is to mean play).

There's an evil emperor named Lucky who's tightened his nasty grip on this unlucky land—filling its air with a corrupting fog and populating its streets with a robotic army that's programmed to keep the populace in line. But thanks to the mysterious Scarlet Man, all is not lost. 'Cause this red-cloaked figure has been quietly recruiting good guys like you to make a difference.

And so you become part of a stalwart resistance that explores Aethasia's cobblestone streets, searches its heavily patrolled ports, and quests up into nearby snow-peaked mountains to fulfill the needs at hand. Sometimes that entails gathering gears and widgets that can construct steampunk gadgets for clearing the poisonous air. Other times it means figuring out environmental puzzles to find a way through. Or creating fanciful weaponry with which to take the fight to those clunky automaton overseers. Or it might mean simply seeking out and helping people who are hidden away somewhere in fear. In short, all your work is in hopes of once again restoring Aethasia to its former glory.

Slingshots, Clogged Carburetors ...

As far as the battling is concerned, that's a turn-based, spin-a-dial system matching you up against two or more mechanical foes who might spot you passing by. They shoot guns, slash with blades, snap whips, blow streams of fire or dig at the ground beneath your feet with large drills. And your guy or gal fires back with "whacking sticks," hammers, slingshots or some other projectile-launching gizmo. There's no blood or mess, but still quite a lot of life-gauge-depleting smacks, I'll note.

"Well, clog my carburetor!" takes the place of any swearing in this game, along with the likes of "chatterin' camshafts!"

... and God?

And taking the place of all the normal grit and grime and despair and even demonic stuff (that finds its way into so many games like this) is a Christian allegory. Much like the novelist C.S. Lewis did when he wove Christian concepts into a series of fantastical otherworldly stories for children, The Aetherlight slips its truth in between hours of steampunk gameplay.

The first major chapter of the Scarlet Man's adventure, for instance, lines up nicely with the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac. (Believe me, it's in there!) And the game goes out of its way to make sure you get the point, too. In a series of accompanying Did You Think About This? minigames, Aetherlight encourages kids to match up the similarities between the two stories.

Also laid out for gamers are interesting facts, details and pictures related to the real world surrounding the biblical story, making each aspect feel fresh and identifiable even in our hyper-modern surroundings. Then the game doles out rewards as young players connect all the dots—teaching spiritual truth without letting anyone know they're in Sunday school.

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Episode Reviews

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