Review: S.M.A.R.T. Adventures, Mission: Math 2, Peril at the Pyramids

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Kata Enterprises, Inc. presents the second game in their SMART adventure series for the iPad (first one reviewed by Kelsey here), targeted at kids in the 9-11 age range, or to what most students learn by the end of fifth grade.

This made it the perfect game for me. Though I’m 22, my math skills lie in that range, or so I thought.

Here’s the description as it appears in the app store:

“SMART – the Science Math and Radical Technology Agency – needs your help again! The saga that began with Sabotage at the Space Station continues and the mystery depends as you join Agent Delta and the Junior Agents for another exciting math adventure. Artifacts are disappearing, scaffolding is collapsing, agents are in turmoil, and everyone is in Peril…at the Pyramids. Meet new agents and scientists and explore the archaeological dig site while using your math skills to solve the mystery. We’ve got problems to solve. Let’s go!”

The description also notes that the game is “age-appropriate and presents positive images and role models for girls.” I do agree that the game showed some strong women at the core of the pyramid mystery. They were the leaders at the site. They keep you updated on all of the events as they figure out clues. Even Agent Gamma, an elderly woman, is ready to kick butt.

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That cane is probably used to beat up evil doers.

There are no in app-purchases in this game either, which I like. Games targeted toward younger people shouldn’t give them the opportunity to accidentally spend money or not finish the game if they’re not willing to pay.

There’s also a lot of diversity in the characters you meet throughout the game. In addition, kids are encouraged to create their own character, Star. There are a range of skin tones, outfits, and hair colors to choose from. It’s a bit weird though that, before designing your character, your face is all covered and your posture makes you look kind of like a mummy yourself.

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Looking like a mummy.

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All gussied up.

Each mini-game has three levels of difficulty, and the game warns that “many players may need an adult’s help while playing the more difficult levels at first.” Any game that’s able to engage a younger kid while also getting their parents involved is great. I think that gaming together, learning together, and being involved with what your child is doing is very important.

However, if I was a parent, I might have had a little trouble helping out my kid with these problems, since I haven’t seen math like this since elementary school. If I were a parent, I would also want a section where I could go in and see my child’s progress. How are they doing in geometry puzzles versus probability puzzles? What should they work more on? What are they struggling with? I hope I didn’t miss this feature, but it would be really helpful.

Going through the same mini-game three times before you get a clue is also kind of tedious, especially since the games aren’t necessarily engaging. But that might just be how I felt about it. It would make sense for a child during the learning process. But, to me, the challenges felt less like games and more like work.

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The mini-games did make sense with the story. You have to fix the dune buggies, sort the treasure, remove graffiti from the hieroglyphs, etc. Along the way, you do learn tidbits about Egyptians, but I wish they filled you in more about the culture itself. Although this is a math game and not a history game. I could have gone without most of the bad puns and jokes in the mini games, and trust me, I usually love bad puns.

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The math puzzles themselves focus on sorting composite numbers, figuring out volume, perimeter, and area, using geometry, solving probability equations, and finding the mean, median, and mode of treasure, to name a few. Some of the puzzles were more challenging than others. I can see some kids having problems with some of the more difficult formulas, though, and not being able to write them down to find an answer. A probability equation is shown below as an example:

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Uhh…can I have some scrap paper?

Overall, though, I didn’t feel super engaged. I remember in fifth grade I received an educational game to prepare me for sixth grade. I was so engrossed in the story and the way they presented the games that it didn’t feel like I was learning for learning’s sake, just having fun. This is what I feel like SMART Adventures is missing: a better link between the games and the story.

Score: B. It gets the same score I got on most puzzles.

It’s a decent game, definitely educational, but I feel like it’s missing some key aspects to keep kids playing and help parents see their progress.

Get the game on iTunes for $4.99 here. Requires iOS 6.0 or later. Compatible with iPad.

[Disclaimer: A review code was provided for me to review this game.]

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