Sunday, August 30, 2015

Dig into Mayan History and Culture with a Fabulous Online Learning Game {A Review}

History + Online Learning Fun typically equals SUCCESS here, so, when we were offered a chance to review Mayan Mysteries (Online Game) by Dig-It! Games it only took us a few minutes to reply with an excited "yes!" 

Having never heard of
Mayan Mysteries prior to being offered a chance to review it, we immediately checked out a FREE DEMO of the game, decided it was for us, and, then, happily waited for our  review log-in information to arrive so we could play the full game.  Since then, it has been fun, fun, fun and learning for the kids!

All-in-One Engaging Learning and Fun 

Basically, Mayan Mysteries is an online game that seamlessly weaves reading (or listening), history, adventure, and 25+ challenging puzzles together so players can have fun while learning about archaeology and Mayan culture. With both single-user ($3.99) and classroom editions ($189.00) editions available, the game offers opportunities for players to discover more about seven unique Mayan sites while trying to solve a mystery to save the mythical city of Ich'aak from looters.  

A subscription to
Mayan Mysteries includes:

  •  9+ hours of gameplay which integrates content verified by Maya expert Robert J. Sharer with plain old online fun!

  • an immersive, interactive learning adventure which aligns with National Standards for Social Studies, Math, and Language Arts and offers fun achievements.

Dig It! Games Review

  • a comprehensive In-Game Encyclopedia with 450+ accurate entries.

  • an engaging comic-strip storyline that can be read or listened to.

  • plenty of opportunities to enrich Reading, Geography, Math, and Critical Thinking skills while having fun online.

The game, which is available online or for iPad, is designed for players in grades 5-9, however, but includes audio features that make it accessible for younger players and struggling readers, too.   In fact, my 5-9 year olds had no trouble playing it together without me after an initial few sessions with me.

10 Thumbs Up Here! 

Dig It! Games Review

When we first got our log-in information for our Mayan Mysteries subscription, we found it super simple to get the game up on our computer.  Then, the kids and I sat down to play.

At first, my oldest and I took turns reading information as my younger two children sat alongside us, offering input about which characters and locations within the game to click on and how to respond to challenge puzzles.  We thoroughly enjoyed doing this together, but found the background music in the game a bit too loud for our tastes.

A quick look at the settings helped us discover that we could lower the music volume AND set the animated voices to automatically play.  This discovery meant two things to our family:

  1. Less distraction from background music, which equaled greater fun and focus for the sound-sensitive among us.
  2. The ability for the children to play independently.  (My nine -year-old could actually play on his own anyway since he could read the text included in the game, but he likes the animated voices on the audios and my younger two prefer them to our none-year-old reading to them.) 

So it was that Mayan Mysteries went from being something Mom or Dad would do with the kids to being a tool for learning and fun that the kids could use together while Mom and Dad attended to other things (although the kids still welcomed my husband and me to sit with them to play when we wished to do so.)

Whether playing by themselves or with my husband or me, the children enjoyed the game.  Better still, my husband and I appreciated its learning value!  In fact, more than once since we began using
Mayan Mysteries, the kids have randomly related facts and theories learned they have learned from it to us in conversation while we've been out and about.  The children have also talked about the game with park interpreters at field trips to local historical spots, and they have excitedly told friends about the game. 

Without question, all of us here give
Mayan Mysteries two thumbs up!

In the Kids Words...

When writing this review, I asked each of my children to share their thoughts about Mayan Mysteries.  My nine-year-old said:

So, there is this person called Ladrone, and you think this person is stealing artifacts, so she can find a lost city called  Ich’aak that is said to be magical. 

Your job is to stop Ladrone and get to Ich'aak before she does.  You do this by completing tasks, playing games, reading or listening to pages as if people were trying to tell you things about the Mayas, and doing a lot of other stuff.  You can also go back in time and talk to Mayans as you solve clues.
Dig It! Games Review
I think it is a very good game.  It is about history and culture, but you are playing games and having fun while you learn.  For example, I learned that the Mayans put boards on babies heads to make their foreheads flat and their heads super tall, because they thought it was pretty.  I also learned about geography, artifacts, archaeology...

Dig It! Games Review

I do not think anything about the game should be changed except the math.  The Mayan math is super hard!  Besides that, everything is awesome.  I would recommend Mayan Mysteries to everybody.
My eight-year-old bubbled:

Mayan Mysteries is a game that is good to teach you about Mayan culture.  I like it, because it tells you a lot of facts and it is like you are talking with olden day people.  You can go back in time.

 I could play it without Mommy, because people in the program read the words to you and it is a game I wanted to play...  I did not know Mayans flatten their foreheads or want their children to look cross-eyed even if nowadays you'd be "arrested on the spot" for doing what Mayans did to babies...  Mayan culture was different and a little bit ridiculous, but cool.

My five-year-old added:

Mayan Mysteries is a game online.  I liked the money thing where sticks, stones, and shells were five, one, and zero.  I liked the voices.  I want to keep playing it.
Of course, all three of my children will keep playing Mayan Mysteries while we have our subscription, and, as I have time, I  will, too!  We thoroughly appreciate that our subscription to the game includes:

  • memorable game-based learning
  • features that allow independent learning even for struggling readers 
  •  plenty of fun while gaining cultural understanding

  • opportunities to use critical thinking and problem solving skills 

  • geography tie-ins

  • an ability to easily pick up the game right where you left off with it, s well as to go back to explore thing you've already completed, too.

The only thing I wish the game had since I am not always playing it with the kids is a parent feature that would allow me to quickly and easily check-in on where they are in the mystery-solving adventure, what key concepts they've explored and how they are doing with the puzzles.  As I understand, the classroom edition of the game allows such things with a Teacher Management System that allows educators to track the progress and performance of up to 30 students.

With or without tracking options,
Mayan Mysteries makes for an engaging and worthwhile online pursuit.  As I mentioned earlier, the my children have already been recommending the game to local friends. Now, I happily recommend to you.  There is enough meat and challenge to the game, I think, to capture the interest of its intended audience, Middle School-aged children, and it definitely appeals to my Elementary School-age children.   

Played just for fun (with learning as an added benefit) or used as a springboard or enrichment for a Mayan or archaeology study unit, the game can make a wonderful addition to homes and classrooms.  Plus, since it is compatible with iPads, those lucky enough to own iPads can play it on the go, too!

Learn More

Dig-It! Games also makes Roman Town (iOS App), which I wish we'd had an iPad to check out.  It looks just as fabulous as Mayan Mysteries (Online Game).

Dig It! Games Review

Dig-It! Games Review

How can online educational games spark fun and learning in your home?  Might you, too, dig in to Mayan Mysteries?

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