Kids love to play iPad games, while their parents wish they were using these tablets to learn instead. These two can be combined in a new offering called Playing History: Vikings.
There are plenty of educational games, and finding the right mix of learning and fun is difficult. This offering from Serious Games Interactive is fairly close to the “sweet spot”: it’s both entertaining and informative.
It functions like most role playing games (RPGs), with the player controlling an on-screen character who develops over time. But rather than being an elf or an assassin in a fictional world, it takes place during Europe’s Viking Era about 1,000 years ago. The main character is Erik, a boy who the player follows through important events as he grows and matures.
It’s important to be aware that this isn’t “Curious George Uses the Potty”. Erik is a Viking and spends time in the game fighting and looting. And Playing History: Vikings doesn’t pull any punches; the first quest is to steal a gold cross from a church in a burning town, because that’s the sort of thing real Vikings did. That said, the game’s cartoonish style is far from gritty realism.
Fighting is turn based, which means the player either attacks, moves, or defends, then waits while an enemy makes his attack (see here). This means that combat is strategic (“Should I use my sword or step back and throw an axe?”) rather than the frantic hack-and-slash of most games. There’s no blood, and Erik spends far more time finding items and avoiding his enemies than in battle… but there’s enough combat to keep most children aged 9 – 13 interested.
The education features are scattered throughout. Characters Erik meets will frequently tell him facts about Viking beliefs and lifestyle, and the player often needs to remember these to complete the quests. The player can also be rewarded for noticing the anachronistic items that were deliberately included.
The game looks great, and is well designed. A child who has played an RPG on a tablet before should have no problems figuring out how to use this one, which is a good thing because SGI didn’t include any kind of manual, and the on-screen help is from the PC version.
Playing History: Vikings isn’t the most fun iPad game on the market, but it is entertaining enough that a child can enjoy it, while also getting a sense of what the life of a Viking was actually like.
It’s currently available from the App Store for $1.99, which is considerably less than the cost of the identical PC version.