If you’re not familiar with Osmo for iPad, it’s a clever game system where users place physical objects in front of the upright iPad to control actions in their game. A mirror on the iPad’s camera allows it to see the objects and respond accordingly. Past Osmo sets have ranged from lettered tiles for spelling, to special blocks for coding. Osmo Pizza Co. is the latest offering.
Osmo Pizza Co. lets users run their own pizza shop, where they’ll take orders from customers, make the pizzas and give customers their change. The better these tasks are performed, the more profit will be made, which can then be invested to upgrade the shop’s fittings. The physical set comes with a pizza base, a range of toppings, and a change set containing both notes and coins. It’s a vibrant and engaging set with lots happening at once, requiring players to juggle different tasks as the customers demand it.
When I first tried Osmo Pizza Co., I expected a game which would support young players to develop specific skills such as calculating correct change, but this isn’t really what the set is for. I found this frustrating at first, since I’d hoped to be able to use the game to teach these skills, but once I shifted my expectations, I saw that the value of Osmo Pizza Co. lies in the way it asks players to multi-task in real time.
The gameplay has several elements. First, customers enter the shop and tell you what they want on their pizza. The player follows the request and watches the customer to gauge their response. This aspect of the game requires players to follow instructions from visual cues and then confirm visually whether they’ve followed them correctly. It can be slightly confusing at times, especially if the camera has missed any of the toppings you’ve placed, but is generally pretty simple to follow once you’ve found your way around the set. Sometimes it might involve fractions as a customer asks for a topping on only half, or occasionally even on one third of their pizza.
Once the customer has eaten their pizza, they’ll attempt to pay and the player will have to give them the correct change. The difficulty of this can be adjusted from notes only down to which coins to include. The set uses US currency, so the coins included are 1c, 5c, 10c and 25c. This is not ideal for Australian users looking to develop their understanding of money, but viewed in the context of the game’s broader purpose of multi-tasking, most players should be able to adapt well enough.
The pace of the game makes it challenging, but that same quality also makes the game quite addictive as the rush of peak hour draws the player in. As more customers enter the shop, the player has to move between taking and making orders, and collecting money, juggling tasks as smoothly and quickly as they can in order to keep the customers satisfied. Pleasing customers means more money in tips and greater profits, which can then be used to upgrade the shop’s fittings. It’s this entrepreneurship that is the game’s main focus, as players take on multiple aspects of running their pizza shop to maximise profit.
While individual tasks do correspond with Australian curriculum requirements at level 3 for Fractions and Money, the game is best suited to extending learners who are already established in these areas, putting them on the spot to work quickly while also performing other tasks. The children who I played the game with all enjoyed it, but not all were able to succeed in performing the tasks.
There are several factors that set Osmo Pizza Co. apart from similar apps, the most obvious being the use of physical pieces rather than the touch screen. This is a big part of the game’s engagement, but some players could be frustrated by the task of keeping track of so many pieces at once. The cost of the set is also significantly higher than other apps, as would be expected, but the quality of the production is suitably higher also.
If I could make one change to Osmo Pizza Co. (US currency aside), I’d like to see more flexibility in the game modes to isolate specific skills. The tools are all there, so an ability to play as only the pizza-maker or only as cashier would broaden the set’s classroom uses and open the game up to players who are still developing the skills the game requires. The game does have a junior mode for younger players, but the difference appears to be minimal and this mode didn’t really support younger players much better than the main game mode.
Overall, the set is vibrant and fun with great appeal to players aged 7 to 12, although the gameplay won’t suit all ability levels within that age range. It’s best suited to be used as an extension for learners who have already established the appropriate skills, giving them a chance to use those skills in context.
Australian Curriculum links:
LEVEL 3 MATHEMATICS:
Money and financial mathematics:
Fractions and decimals:
Model and represent unit fractions including 1/2, 1/4, 1/3, 1/5 and their multiples to a complete whole (ACMNA058)
LEVEL 2 ENGLISH:
Interacting with Others:
[Listen is defined as “the use of the sense of hearing as well as a range of active behaviours to comprehend information received through gesture, body language and other sensory systems”.]