Sunday, July 14, 2013

TOS Review: Mayan Mysteries Online Game

There may be an archaeologist in training at my house.  Of course, all of it might hinge on whether or not he gets to wear a fedora.  You can guess that both Josiah and I were fairly giddy when I got the chance to review an online game from Dig-It! Games.

Dig-It! Games was founded by archaeologist Suzi Wilcyznksi (who also used to be a middle-school teacher). Those are some awesome credentials for developing this kind of product. Here is a little more about Dig-It! Games from the website. 

Dig-It! Games is dedicated to encouraging kids to explore the world around them through historically accurate content that conforms to curriculum standards and seamlessly blends entertainment and learning.
Dig-It! Games wants your child to Discover. Analyze. Explore. Learn. 

We received the Mayan Mysteries Online Game. It runs $21.99 for a single user account. In our house, this isn’t an issue, but I believe if you have a houseful you can have your kiddos play through the game one at a time. The license is valid for one year so that’s a lot of time to give everybody a chance at the action. It is available both for Mac and PC. This game is meant for students ages 11 and up.


How It Works

The game is afoot (a little Sherlock or Shakespeare)!  In Mayan Mysteries your child becomes a detective and an archaeologist. A cagey thief (who has been known to steal an artifact or two) has been up to no good. Team Q needs help to solve the mystery and keep the looters at bay. 

The student can….

  • Visit Maya archaeology sites

  • Learn more about ancient Maya cities

  • Analyze artifacts

  • Learn more about the Maya calendar and the math system

  • And more!

The object is to work through 4 actual Maya archaeological sites which include:Copan, Ceren, Tikal and Caracol. The player learns about Maya culture and history while keeping an eye on those pesky looters (not to mention discovering the identity of the thief "Ladrone"). I was pretty impressed with all of the information available. More on that in a minute.

The game requires a bit of reading. I was worried about my dyslexic boy. That is until I realized there is a handy little button he can push. The “character” at the time reads  the information. Not all games or locations have one, but it sure made things easier for him. Within the reading there are links the student can click on to learn more about a particular topic.

After the “reading” there are quizzes. The object is to answer enough questions to get ahead of the looters. In addition to the quizzes, there are mapping activities, excavating and puzzle solving (even math puzzles…yikes!).

How We Played and What We Thought

I have just a little bit of a confession. I had as much fun with this game as Josiah did. We “investigated” together. He isn’t finished playing the entire game as of this post. As I said, there is quite a bit of information to navigate and it takes him a bit longer than some.  It’s been a nice game to work through.

 Here are some screen shots to show you how a few of our favorite activities. 

This map shows the locations of the Maya World. There were fun geography games that allowed Josiah to learn more about the where the Maya lived, but the natural resources available to them. The small buildings are the excavation sites. When I took this shot, Josiah had worked through one of them.


For this game session, Josiah clicked on Copan. The game brought him to the modern day excavation site. Each one of those characters had a task to be completed. The small bird in the center of the screen is a spirit guide. That's a bit "whoo-hoo" for a game that teaches history, but I understand the context.


Josiah first chose the young fella with the spy glass up front (I believe this character's name is Charlie). Charlie told us more about Maya writing. Warning! The yellow "notes" are all mine. There isn't actually a note and arrow pointing to the nifty features on the webpages.


When Josiah was completed with this activity he moved to another character. This one took him on an archeological dig. Big fun! He had to choose the appropriate tool and use the tool to excavate an artifact.  Josiah lost his first artifact. Remember! The yellow writing is all me. I would hate for you to expect some sass and be disappointed.


Josiah had success uncovering the second and subsequent artifacts he "dug" for.


Yet another character took him to a site where there was more information to read and learn. This is a shot of the quiz that follows. Josiah had to click on the correct answer based on the reading. You can see that I did some more labeling (me and that yellow font!). With every correct answer the yellow truck (the player) gets closer to the goal. For every incorrect answer the looters (not seen in this shot) get closer. Suspense!


After the player completes all of the modern day excavation challenges he or she moves on to a ancient Maya site. There they complete other challenges interacting with Maya peoples. They might learn more about day to day life or farming practices.

This last shot is of the clues Josiah had gathered during this particular part of the game. You can see that all the graphics are really well done. Josiah has decided he might trade his fedora for one of these hats.

We had a lot of fun with this one. Here are a few more things to consider.
  • There is talk of Maya warfare and human sacrifice. That's a little heavy for younger children, but I appreciate the need to teach history accurately. There are no graphic pictures and all "heavier" subjects are presented very tastefully.
  • I am really impressed with the quality of the graphics and sound. The fact that they are thoughtful enough to include a reading assistant made all the difference for us. 
  • My adventurous boy had quite a good time.  I felt that there is a good blend of learning and intrigue.
  • The price at $21.99 might be hard for some of us to manage. There is, however, an iPad App available for $9.99
  • There is also a classroom edition available for all of my schoolteacher friends. 

You might enjoy trying out the game yourself. You can get a free demo of Mayan Mysteries here.

 Other members of the crew reviewed this product and the iPad App. You can check out their reviews here.


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