Posts Tagged ‘Educational Game’


Posted: August 24, 2011 in 4.5 Hearts
Tags: , ,

Poikilia is a very interesting, albeit short, puzzle game brought to us by the awesome that is Gambit Labs up at MIT. The basic idea is that you are a little boy who’s family runs a sort of magic lighthouse where the braziers can produce multicolored fire. You fall down a hole and have to find your way about out but keep the brazier lit the entire time. It explores both the CMYK and RGB ways of mixing color, also known as pigment blending and light blending.

Unlike most educational games, Poikilia uses the game mechanics themselves to teach the color theory that they want to teach rather than just kind of theming the game or adding written information in or something weird like that. They report on their website that their intention was to promote active transfer. I assure you, it does. I’ve always had a lot of trouble with color theory and after a few play throughs of this, I’ve got it completely. The one thing I don’t like is that its really short. There are only 24 levels to Poikilia.

The mechanics are pretty much your standard fair. You use the arrow keys to move around inside a maze and you have to find the exit. The really awesome part of this is that you have a brazier with colored light or colored smoke and you have to make it through the whole maze with there still being something in the brazier. If you goes out, you have to start again. The colors would only go out if you step across a line that causes that particular color to vanish. Therein lies the challenge. One thing I really like is that there are CMYK and RBG color wheels in the top corners of the play screen at all times based on which kind of color mixing you’re actively involved in.

I thoroughly enjoyed playing Poikilia, and really enjoyed meeting the developers last year at PAX. I strongly suggest that you check out this game, and others by Gambit. I love the art and the music and the play is really awesome. Overall, I award this game a 4.5 out of 5 hearts. The only reason its not perfect is because I just wish it was longer.

4.5 out of 5 zelda hearts

If you’re interested in playing Poikilia, you can find it at Gambit’s webpage here.


Mission US

Posted: March 2, 2011 in 4.5 Hearts
Tags: ,

Here’s another analysis I wrote for class. This one is for an educational game for middle schoolers.

Mission US is a point and click adventure game produced by Thirteen with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Humanities where you take the role of an apprentice boy during the start of the American Revolution.



  • To educate students about the causes of the Revolutionary war
  • To introduce important vocamulary words for studying early American history
  • To provide teachers with a game and worksheets for use in a classroom environment


The story of Mission US is that of the early American revolution in Boston, as seen through the eyes of Apprentince Printer Nathaniel Wheeler. Through the player’s choices, he decides which side to support and experiences the revolution. The story is a large portion of the learning goals, and supports them very well.


Mission US is a point and click adventure game with a few mini games. The main game play involves moving around the city and having conversations with people through dialogue options. The player chooses whether Nat is a patriot, tory or neutral using this mechanic. This also allows for the collecting of the vocabulary words. While the choices of the player have no effect on the greater story, the revolution, they do impact what sort of participation in the revolution Nat Wheeler has. There are also two minigames that are unlocked through play. The first is Pennywhistle Hero, a Guitar Hero style game where students can play revolutionary era songs on a pennywhistle. The second is Think Fast! which is a vocabulary game where the student fills in the blank in a sentence to prove their understanding of the vocabulary.

User Experience

The interface is very simple to use, being comprised of point and click elements that either give the player information about the colonial lifestyle or further the game through dialogue or actions. During the Pennywhistle Hero minigame, the player uses the keyboard to play the proper notes on the pennywhistle to play patriotic songs.


Mission US was implemented using Flash. This seems to be the correct solution, since the game is meant to be playable in classrooms and should be able to run on any computer with an internet connection. In their FAQ section, they also have instructions to contact them for another version that can be played without the internet. The only downside is that Mission US does not run properly on a computer with IE6 or older,which many school computers are running.


While there don’t appear to be any formal assessments of Mission US, a statistic stuck out during a search. According to, prior to the release of this game studies showed that only ‘17% of eighth graders performed at or above the proficient level in American History.’ This statistic could then be compared to a sample set of students who have played the game to see if the percentage is increased. They could also compare to other methods of learning history such as Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? or the Magic Tree House book series.


With episode 2 scheduled for release in the spring of 2011 and a very avid fanbase of students, teachers and parents, Mission US seems to be a very successful educational game. There is a clamour on their forums for more games like this, more chapters, and most interestingly, for games like this for adults. I think that Thirteen and Electric Funstuff succeeded wildly with this game.

And since I moving this over to here, I should continue along with a score, shouldn’t I? Mission US was certainly fun and engaging, simple to use and had nice graphics. The teaching goals were met very well and I feel like this game is successful. So, I give it a 4.5 out of 5.

4.5 out of 5 zelda heartsIf you’re interested in playing Mission US, its available here.

This game is several varieties of special. And my review for this is going to be way more verbose than normal. I wrote about this for one of my classes, so I’m just going to be lazy and copy paste my report 😛

The purpose of this game is to convince people that the immigration laws in this country are unfair to immigrants and to educate the populous about the truth of immigration. This game details things like that fact that many immigrants are afraid to call the police because they may be deported, or the fact that a misdemeanor to a citizen is a felony if an immigrant does it. It also shows the environment in detention facilities for immigrants who have been detained. The goal of the developers is that people who play ICED will be more likely to vote for changes to the immigration and citizenship laws. In fact, ICED stands for I Can End Deportation. This game doesn’t do terribly well at its goals. The fact that the information is all given in either voice overs which can be turned off or text boxes that can be ignored, or in Myth Or Fact puzzles that can be solved without any trouble by picking the choice that seems more against the immigration policies.

The setting of the beginning of this game is a nameless, fictional city with a large immigrant population. The second half of the game takes place in a deportation detention center. There are five different characters, made up of teenagers and college students. Each one is an immigrantwho is unknowingly breaking immigration law. For example, Suki didn’t take enough courses on a student visa. Another example is Anna, who thinks she’s a citizen but the lawyer that was supposed to get her citizenship when she was younger wasn’t a real lawyer. The story takes the player from a normal day walking through a city, through an immigrations officer raid and into a detention center. The story is brute forced at points. Even if the player succeeds completely at the first two stages, they still go to the detention center just to see it. The story does help the goals of the game, though the fact that the story doesn’t change based on player actions is quite odd.
ICED is played by moving the character around through a virtual city trying to gain points without raising their danger level. If their danger level gets too high, immigration officers show up to arrest them. The choices include the Myth Or Facct questions and other questions about whether or not to do certain actions such as registering to vote or calling the police on a man beating his wife. The actions don’t have any kind of mix or randomization though, and all of them should not be done because, for example, registering to vote while not a citizen is illegal. Scattered throughout the world are ways of getting points. The main way to find these is by looking at the minimap for the little green dots. The player doesn’t actually have to pay any attention to the main screen. The questions are the main gameplay which is intended for any kind of learning, though and while the questions could be very educational, they are very easy to determine the correct answer with out actually absorbing any of the information. The player merely needs to see whether the question seems to be expressed as a fact or an opinion and how reasonable the statement sounds.

ICED was developed using the Torque 3D engine to make a first person game. The controls are mouse to look and arrow keys to move, just like most first person shooters. The user interface has many different measures of the player’s success, include score, progress, freedom and risk. Despite being on the interface the entire time, the risk meter only seems to apply during the city half of the game and the freedom meter seems to only apply during the detention center half of the game. The minimap in the top corner of the game by-passes the need to actually look at the 3D environment that the player is inhabiting. The questions are the main gameplay that is offered to the player. To make the point really stick, the information should have been offered through another medium rather than textbased questions. Perhaps by making the options be something more immersive like conversations or by making more actions available.

In 2007, Breakthrough asked the Education Development Center to assess ICED. Their assessment largely showed that the game was having a strong emotional affect on the players, but it also showed that many of the players thought that the game was far too biased and was putting its own facts into question. Some of the open-ended responses from the players suggested that only part of the story was being shown and that it was hard to feel for a character who was being detained for breaking that law. The main strong points of the game, according to the assessment, were the roleplay and immersion aspects. The major suggestion from the assessment board was to make the questions from the gameplay be more complex, since a simple true/false question doesn’t cover the full depth of the situation.

ICED! is a basically good serious game with several flaws. The story is over-simplified, as are the choices, and the game bias is so strong as to turn off the kind of players who really notice, with some even noting that it puts their facts into question. For some people, this game and its emotional response will be enough to cause them to want to change immigration policies, but for many it will be lacking because of the overly strong bias. Had they used more complex gameplay and allowed less of their bias to show, perhaps the game could be more successful.

So, for an actual review, I suppose that means I should give it a score. I hate this game. It was boring and I felt like I was being hit with a clue bat. A really hard, possibly steel clue bat. The best way to describe it is that one of my friends watched me playing and said “I think this game hates America.” So I’m giving it a 1 out of 5.

If for some unusual reason you want to play ICED, you can find it at