There have been plenty of “edutainment” games over the years and as someone who was forced to play through many of them by parents and grandparents, I can say with full confidence and conviction that many of them are downright terrible. Even the best games in the edutainment genre could barely even be considered games. I’ll level with you. I found some enjoyment in some of the Reading Blaster games (particularly the Ages 9-12 edition that had Rave going up again Dudley Dabble) but even then, these were barely video games in the modern sense. You clicked on stuff. You moved around. You learned things. You solved things. But at the end of the way, these didn’t come close to any of the real video games. There wasn’t really anything in the gameplay department. I think we just accepted them for what they were because they were technically games and there was in fact learning. We just accepted that’s how those games were. We had no idea there could be something better that also taught people. The Young Socratics did know though and their delivery of their newest game proves it to the rest of us.
Right on their Kickstarter page it’s stated both clearly, proudly and almost defiantly against the backdrop of all the other mediocre edutainment games. “Play an exciting Myst-like puzzle adventure game and learn scientific reasoning” is a statement even I can get behind, and science is definitely not my favorite subject. Don’t get me wrong–I love science but my favorite subjects were English, Advanced Literature, and Writing–but that’s just it. Any good edutainment game should be able to pull you in with the entertainment aspect. Why did I play typing games when I was little? It’s simple. They were Super Mario Bros. themed typing games and my Grandma was a genius and knew I’d play it for that very reason. It’s the same thing here. Science may not be my favorite subject but you can bet that I’ll stay up until 3:30 AM playing through a game rooted within science if it’s a Myst-style adventure game. And I did … on a few different occasions even.
Odyssey opens with you arriving at an island and a distress message playing over the radio. A 13-year-old girl named Kai and her family are trapped on the island. Some sailors were there before and they think smashed many of their things. Kai’s Dad is an archaeologist and the sailors believe he has treasures that may be valuable and worth a lot of money. They only have a few days before the sailors return to try to reach them. They’re hiding within the island and have set scientific traps across the island, in hopes that someone who hears their distress call will be able to reach them. The puzzles are meant to be difficult enough to solve where the sailors won’t be able to reach them. There are clues scattered across the island, along with fragments from Kai’s journal that talk in greater detail about the island and information she’s learned from her Dad about science and philosophy.
This is a pretty great story for an edutainment style game and, in all honesty, it’s not too bad compared to a lot of “regular” games. There may be some holes here and there but I’m impressed with the efforts and lengths the team went to try to weave a compelling and interesting tale through learning science and philosophy. I can’t think of anything more believable or compelling than what they have here so it’s hard to criticize the faults it has. I mean, it’s obviously not that plausible that they’d set up a bunch of science-based traps and then go into hiding but as far as fantasy goes, it’s not too far off base.
The science premise may be the only thing that feels oddly specific but hey, they had to find a way to have it be that for the sake of the game design and intentions of the game. It’s incredible that they went to these lengths and the passion they have for teaching both kids and adults about these subjects is certainly admirable. I even found enjoyment and learned some things as an adult which should come as no surprise as The Young Socratics are hoping to engage and teach both kids and adults. They largely succeeded because you won’t catch me staying up until the late hours of the night learning about science normally. I may read about it sometimes and I’m always down for hearing Bill Nye drop some microphones but I could never have imagined that I would stay up for hours on end playing a science edutainment video game.
The puzzles may not be like anything in a Legend of Zelda game but they’re interesting nonetheless. You’ll learn the information you need by exploring the island and reading information within it. By the end of the game, you’ll feel like Indiana Jones, if he was a scientist. It’s pretty cool because I did find myself learning things and it made the puzzles that much more rewarding when I’d solve them. Towards the beginning of the game, I’d feel a little dread as I hate getting stuck on puzzles but as I explored and learned more, I began to look forward stumbling across a puzzle.
This world that the developers created is beautiful. The graphics have their faults but I’m still impressed with the amount of work that went into crafting the island you’ll spend so much time exploring. Water looked very pretty and seemed to behave naturally. The rocks and gray colors may get a little old but hey, that’s something that Bethesda’s Fallout games are guilty of as well so I’m not going to hold that against them too much. From caverns to caves to so much more, this game is pretty and it’s got a nice style that compliments the wonder and mystery of this world.
I really enjoyed the music. It was very ambient and atmospheric. It really added to the immersion and like I said before, it wasn’t long before I realized I’d been playing a science game for hours on end and really enjoying myself. I’ll forgive the developer for tricking me and teaching me things since I had so much fun with this game. The sound design is pretty good too but the music definitely soars above it.
The presentation of this game is great. As I explored its three chapters I had a lot of fun and was really impressed with all the hard work that clearly went into this game. The amount of information they go through within the game is pretty impressive as well. The first chapter of the game goes through the beginnings of science and the transition from flat earth Pre-Socratic science to the physics of Aristotle. Chapter two goes from the geocentric universe of Ptolemy through the heliocentric universe of Copernicus and Galileo. The final chapter covers the struggled between Galileo and the followers of Aristotle on free fall motion. The developer is hoping to continue to the story in updates or a sequel that will cover at least three more chapters. For chapter four, they’d like to cover the mathematics of uniformly accelerated motion as developed by Galileo. Chapter five will cover Galileo’s ideas about inertia and the mathematics of projectile motion. Finally, for chapter six they’d like to cover the three Laws of Motion and Universal Gravitation by Newton. I’m really hoping that they’re successful in creating not only these next three chapters but also content and games after that. This developer has a lot of promise and potential and we could use more great edutainment games to teach kids and adults.
This game delivers on its promise and it’s so encouraging because we need more edutainment games like this. I don’t even like attaching the edutainment label to it because it’s just so much better than the entire genre. If we keep getting games like this then kids are going to be able to enjoy learning and experience the same level of immersion I was able to experience while playing a Bethesda game while they learn about science, mathematics, and other school subjects. That’s the kind of world that I want to live in and I’m glad that The Young Socratics seem to have a vision for this kind of future as well.
A review key for Odyssey – The Next Generation Science Game was provided by The Young Socratics for the purposes of this review.
The edutainment genre was improved leaps and bounds by this game and I really hope to see more from The Young Socratics. We need more games like this because I never had anywhere close to this much fun playing edutainment games a child, and I want my future children to be able to grow up in a world with more games like this. Does this game look like something you’d be interested in playing? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!
Odyssey - The Next Generation Science Game
- Myst-style Adventure and Exploration
- Appealing Graphics help Bring the World to Life
- Interesting Puzzles that are Based on Science you'll Learn in the game
- Atmospheric Music helps set the tone
- Fun story that will hopefully continue in future updates or games
- Textures can Pop-in or be Distorted at times
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