Monday, July 8, 2013

Mayan Mysteries iPad App- a Review

How often do your kids bug you to let them play on the iPad? Let’s be honest here, technology can be a great thing, but we need to be choosing wisely how we spend our time. At our house, everyone likes to play a game on the iPad, but I often feel like we need some educational apps to balance out the silly ones. So of course I said “yes” when an educational app came up for review for the Crew! We have been reviewing the “Mayan Mysteries” app from Dig-It Games for the past few weeks.
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Here is what we found out: this app is part one of a continuing saga. At first, Emily (age 15) was a little disappointed that the app’s game gets ‘completed’ without you solving all of the ‘who-dunnit’ mystery...then she realized that meant there would be a second part eventually, so she’s hoping it is available soon. Arlene (age 13) was happy that Emily finished it in a little over a week (about 8 hours of playing time), so she could restart it and play the game. There were a few times where Arlene struggled with some of the conversions (Mayans used base 20, whereas we use base 10), but Emily helped her understand, and the game progressed.

The Mayan Mysteries App retails for $9.99 on iTunes. That is considerably more than we usually are willing to pay for an app. I know that this one is a history lesson, with a game-like setting, but I’m not too sure if I will be willing to pay another $9.99 for the second part. Now, I’m sure some of you have a bigger iTunes budget than we do, so the price may not be a factor for your family. I'm hoping the second part is a little less... maybe $7?

If you’re wondering about ages, it is rated for ages 9 and up, but I think it is more appropriate for ages 11 or 12 and up. There is a lot of information your children can learn from this app/ game. While not all of it is necessary to ‘solve’ each section and move forward, I did find it cool that there are clickable links under ‘unusual’ terms (think vocabulary words!) Look at the pictures below for a better explanation!

Open the app

I clicked "resume game", then I selected the pyramid in the 'Belize' area, then I clicked "travel now"

When I clicked the blue pyramid in the right corner, I got this screen...see the options?

I clicked "Culture" then "Art"

Right above the picture of the woman, there is an arrow to see the next or previous page

See the linked (in blue) words?

When you click on "quetzel bird" this opens and you can learn about the quetzel & see a picture... Cool Huh ?
If the girls were here, I'd show you even more cool shots of the game...but they're off volunteering tonight, and I don't want to be accused of ruining their game.

The graphics, and the way the story is laid out, remind me of the graphic novels the girls sometimes get from the Library. It is animated, without being little-kid cartoonish. One of the things about iPad apps, as opposed to phone apps, is that you see the details, and whether they have been skipped. The attention to detail in the graphics, and all of the 'extras' that are available to the player through the clickable links, makes it mush easier to stay focused on the game aspect while playing. Even if you begin with no knowledge of the Mayans at all, you will have a decent understanding of what Archaeologists have discovered about this culture. One of the reasons I'm recommending it for slightly older ages is that is shared the bad parts of Mayan culture too.

Overall, if you view this app as a history/ social studies book on your iPad, it has more value for the price. I guess the true test will be whether the girls forget about it next month, or ask to go back and play it again. I do know they have learned more about the Mayans, which is the purpose of the game. If I were the type to assign grades...which I’m not... I would probably give the Mayan Mysteries app a B. It seems solid enough to use for learning, but I’m wondering about the retention rate. If you’re looking for an easy way to learn more about the Mayans, this would be worth your time and money, but remember it is more learning than game, and some kids may balk at the idea. My girls? They were happy for a chance to play on the iPad, and they learned I'm happy too!


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