Friday, February 4, 2011

Roamin' Through a Roman Town

Have you ever wanted to take a Roman vacation...back in ancient times? Have you ever thought it would be interesting to be part of an archaeological dig, searching for treasures and answers among the rubble of a buried city? Do you have a thirst for learning about ancient cultures and the people who lived long ago?

If you answered "yes!" to any of these questions, then the new game Roman Town by Dig It! Games may be just the right fit for you. "Designed by a teacher, Roman Town emphasizes student driven learning, problem solving, and analytical thinking." It is a game that is meant to immerse "travelers" in the heart of an archaeological dig as assistant to the Professor . As you coordinate excavation activities, you discover artifacts, which you then must reconstruct and identify. When you identify each one, you are given the opportunity to L*E*A*R*N* (Locate Engrossing And Remarkable kNowledge) more about their use in ancient times, as well as given a chance to compare them to their contemporary equivalents. There are six rooms in a Roman house to excavate, and by the time the "dig" is completed, you and your students will have a firm feel for the culture of a Roman citizen, as well as an understanding of the role of an archaeologist.

We received Roman Town in December, right around Christmas, and because our holiday schedule was particularly light, the children were able to dive right in to the fun that was Roman Town. I sat down with the Three Amigos (ages 3, 5, and 7) each time we played the game, to read the information and to guide their choices. The game is very heavy on the reading, so pre-readers and early readers will definitely need help from a parent or older sibling. I found that the little ones were very excited to dive right into the dig, and they hounded me with questions each time we played. Even though Tex knew he was going to play the game on his own later, he was also drawn into the action and stood behind us watching (and adding snippets of knowledge from the endless random trivia bank that is in his mind) as we worked and learned together.

As you complete different activities, you gain access to mini-games, which you can play any time. Tex liked the game Calculi best. It is like a Roman version of Go, I think. The little ones liked the matching game best. This aspect of Roman Town was definitely a plus for my kids. If you want to try out some similar games, you can go HERE on their website to try out some different learning games.

It took us about six sittings (of under an hour each) to complete the entire game. Because my young kids will sit for about an hour attentively, they always completed a level before quitting. They likely would have done more each time, but I asked them to stop after each room was done, to make sure they didn't finish it all at once. The fact that the game only took six sittings to complete is one of the drawbacks I found in the game. The content was useful, motivating, and interesting, but the kids wished there was more to the game. At the end of the game, one of the characters hints at there being a follow-up dig elsewhere in the town the "next summer." If that adventure had been part of the game, too, it would have been really neat (they were to excavate apartments, which would be different from the house we excavated in this adventure).

One of the rooms that was excavated

Here's what everyone thought about the game:

The Three Amigos (ages 3-7)
  • It was a lot of fun to play this game with Mommy.
  • The game made us more interested in archaeology and Rome. We learned a lot of cool facts and new words.
  • We liked uncovering the artifacts and putting them together.
  • It was too hard for us to read it all on our own, but we liked doing it together with Mom or Tex.
  • We wish there was more to do. We are sad we already finished it. Maybe we can do it again later when we can read it alone. We hope so!
Tex (age 13)
  • I like the Romans (though I do think the Greeks were more amazing), and I find them interesting. To my knoweldge, the game was accurate, and I learned a lot about the basic Roman culture from it.
  • The activities were a bit simple for my age, but too hard in parts for my siblings. I guess that means a target age might be 8-12.
  • I liked the way they structured the they built the house bit by bit, and how you had a part in reconstructing it.
  • I enjoyed the storyline they developed in this game. It got you involved right away with a mystery to solve.
  • I probably could have finished this game in one sitting, but I spread it out over several sessions because that is how Mom wanted me to do it. I wish there had been a second "level" or something more because I did find the content interesting. Maybe an excavation in a lower class neighborhood, or a temple would be a good addition. Or both!
  • Many of the graphics are pretty basic (the guys who did the digging for you were stick men with stick picks and stick shovels). The little kids did not care, but I have played lots of games with much more sophisticated graphics and paid a lot less for them than this game is selling for (or for free). I guess that's because their market is bigger, or something.
  • Actually, the whole game seemed more like an animated book than a game, which was okay, I guess, since it was meant to be educational. It was very interesting, but a hardcore "gamer" might not appreciate that.
  • I think that good games need to have four basic elements: good structure, good story, good graphics, and depth (meaning many paths to many outcomes). At least, I think that's what kids who play games look for today. This game has a good story, a good structure, basic graphics, and was pretty linear (limited outcomes, one ending). However, the site does say you can "find something different every time you play," so maybe there are more things to uncover than I found the first time I played. I will have to check that out.
  • However, I thought the game was really cool once we watched a video about an archeological dig that was very similar in storyline to this game. It was amazing! I am more interested than ever in learning about Roman culture since I played Roman Town. I am looking forward to our World History studies next year.
  • I found the game to be a fun and useful way to get the kids interested in studying Rome. We are actually studying the US this year, so it was a bit out of our curriculum, but the fact that the game is a simulation of an archaeological dig ties in to any historical study. We live near several historic areas and now I will be able to refer to the methods the archaeologists used in this game when we go visit local attractions and talk about their history.
  • Roman Town was engaging for the kids, and mimicked a hands-on experience. From digging up coins, to reconstructing a mosaic, from preparing a meal, to playing a game, the Roman Town introduces you to many aspects of Roman life.
  • We wound up watching an amazing IMAX on Netflix (it was instant downloadable) about Greece that was almost IDENTICAL to the storyline of the Roman Town game the day after we finished excavating the last room of the fictional Roman town. The kids were amazed and excited to see real archaeologists and to see the same practices they had learned about being lived out on screen. Actually, I am not sure who was more excited, them or me. Anyway, it showed me that the game was definitely a good part of a unit study, whether about archeology in general, ancient times, or Rome specifically. It would definitely be a good "springboard" activity.
  • While the graphics were not of the quality Tex expects in a game, they were servicable for the topic that was being addressed. The Three Amigos did not have any issues with the graphics, and really, it is the quality of the information that is being shared that is important, and that is good.
  • There is both a public school version of the game for multi-computer use ($299), as well as a downloadable Teacher's Manual ($19.95), for those who might like to use this game in a formal setting. I think it would make a great addition to any history classroom. The difficulty and length of time to complete is perfect for classroom use.
  • However, I will be honest and say that the price of $39.95 for individual use seems a bit steep to me. For the same amount, I could buy the Genevieve Foster book on Julius Caesar, a cd-rom of Civilization IV (which includes mention of Rome and famous Romans), AND a bag each of Plaster of Paris and sand so I could make my own physical archaeological dig for my kids in a cardboard box. These would also make good supplemental activities for a unit study on Rome. It kind of makes you think where will your money best be used...? Buying the game is certainly easy, though, and the kids liked it.
  • The game runs on PCs using Windows Vista/XP/2000
  • You can check out a demo of the product below:



***HUGE SALE ALERT JUST FOR YOU!!! If you are planning a unit study on Rome (or ancient cultures) soon, or maybe sometime next year, and want to plan ahead, NOW is the  absolute BEST time to jump on Dig-It! Games' incredible offer for TOS Review Crew readers right HERE. Only through February 21st, 2011, you can buy Roman Town at the bargain price of $24.95 PLUS by entering the code TOS2011 when ordering, you can receive an additional 20% off that low price. Awesome deal!! This makes the final price just under twenty dollars, and I CAN highly recommend this product as being a good investment at that ORDER NOW!!

Learn more about using Roman Town with homeschoolers HERE.

Read more reviews from the TOS Review Crew HERE.



**As part of the TOS Review Crew, I recieved a complimentary copy of this game for review purposes. In return, I have provided an honest review containing my opinions about this product, and the opinions of my family, based on our unique expericences with it. I do not expect that your experiences or impressions will be exactly the same as mine, but I hope what I have shared helps you. If I can offer you any information about this product that I have not provided here, please feel free to contact me.

1 comment:

Jen U. said...

We loved Roman Town too but I too thought the price was steep and would not pay that much for a computer game no matter how good it is. Hopefully people will take advantage of the sale right now though!

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