Created by an archaeologist, Dig-it Games! presents ancient civilizations and the field of archaeology in a fun and interactive format. They currently sell two games: Roman Town and Mayan Mysteries. The latter was launched in 2012 and is the product which I was able to use and review.
Specifically, I received Mayan Mysteries Online Game. There is a Mayan Mysteries iPad App, but I do not own an iPad. The online game sells for $21.99 and gives the user access to the game for one year. The iPad App sells for $9.99 and has over 12 hours of play available. The game is geared towards children 9 and older.
The process of gaining access to the game was simple and straightforward and began with an introduction to the purpose of the game and instruction on how to play it. A map of Central America was presented with explanation to the right that must be read of various sites or people groups and how they relate to each other. The user is then quizzed on the information just presented. They are given points for correctness and lose points for being incorrect.
Once finished with the map, a detail is shared and then a screen appears showing people with exclamation points above their heads. Each of these people has something to say. Some of them have games to play. The games do not have enough explanation as to how to play them. I played some of them and found myself very frustrated because I couldn't figure them out. I used so many hints searching for the first object in one game that I ended up with no points even though I finished the game without using any more hints. The first object didn't look like the hint, so it was a bit difficult to figure out this game. There was a math game that we played. I wondered after playing it how any young child could possibly hope to figure it out; it was that difficult to understand what they were asking of the user.
Once the game is played, the user is given his/her score and then, after clicking on the picture, the player is taken to what looks like a page in a book to read historically accurate information about the Mayan culture. All of the information in this game is presented by Robert J. Sharer who spent years as an archaeologist in Central America. He even discovered the tomb of an ancient king. As the user reads, he/she can learn more information by clicking on one of the links that is underlined and colored blue (instead of black). There are sometimes quite a few extra links in the reading. The user can spend a great deal of time clicking through links. The quiz questions don't relate to this extra reading, so it is not necessary; but it certainly does enhance one's learning. Once done reading, four questions are asked. For each question they get right, they move one step ahead of the ancient artifact looters they are trying to beat to the next dig site. They also gain points for each question they answer correctly, and they lose points for wrong answers. This part of the game is exactly the same each time. I would have preferred some type of a map or a different graphic on the screen for each new "chase." It just seemed redundant, as if there was not a whole lot of thought that went into this part of the game. After the user has clicked on each person with an exclamation point and read all of the information and taken all the quizzes, they receive some clue to help them find Ladrone (the main culprit in this mystery).
My kids are totally engrossed these days in one certain video game. I expected that they would find Mayan Mysteries entertaining, but they didn't keep asking to come back to play it. It was not exciting enough for them. There is a TON that can be learned from this game, but they felt that there was too much reading. They saw the potential in it, but they didn't really enjoy it very much. My daughter liked the music and the graphics. The music plays constantly in the background of the game except for when you achieve the end of a level and then a creepy-sounding stone face speaks. The rest of the game must be read, so it seemed strange to have this one time when something speaks.
Every once in a while, a mini-game appears that requires the user to unearth various artifacts using the tools of an archaeologist. The tools are explained - names and how to use. The user must then choose the correct tool and not "lose" the artifact.
This game has a great deal of potential, but I didn't really like that part of the way into the game the children depicted in the game are followed by some mystical spirit bird. I understand that the Mayan culture worshiped gods and had human sacrifices, etc., but I wasn't really comfortable with so much discussion about this topic.
While I wouldn't choose this game solely as a form of entertainment for my children, I would consider it a valuable resource if we were going to discuss ancient civilizations. I would, however, be sure to explain their beliefs and contrast them with our Christian beliefs. I might wait, too, to use this until my kids were in middle school because of those difficult topics.
I probably enjoyed this game more than my kids, but even I felt there was just too much information for a kids' game and not enough "for fun" activities in it; and I love history. Like I said, though, if I were using it to enhance something I already was learning, it would be an invaluable tool and a fun way to learn, for the older student.