Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2017
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Roman Town

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Roman Empire app is informative but incomplete

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Social Studies
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
4-8
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6 images

Pros: Fun puzzles, useful facts, and genuine artifacts to learn about.

Cons: Text is cut off in some text boxes, and two of the mini-games don't work.

Bottom Line: As an ancient history game it holds promise, but the broken functionality makes it hard to recommend.

Teachers can combine this app with a larger lesson on ancient history, the Roman Empire, or Pompeii itself. The app includes plenty of interesting facts about daily life, as well as images of artifacts that would be found in a home or community in ancient Pompeii. Have students identify intriguing facts or artifacts they've found and then generate questions that'll fuel further research. If teachers review the app's content prior to designing a unit on Pompeii, Roman Town could also provide some useful review and reinforcement of lessons based on the facts and imagery included in the game. However, since two of the mini-games don't work with the updated iOS devices, students will be locked out of the complete experience.

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Roman Town is an ancient history game focused on the Roman Empire and Pompeii. This iOS version is an adaptation of a previous game formerly available on the web. Players take control of Fiona and Charlie, two twins who are in pursuit of a looter named Ladrone. Players mainly talk with people in the area of Pompeii, learning about the history of the city and the ancient Roman Empire. Some townspeople won't share their information until Fiona and Charlie play a mini-game or solve a puzzle, which are based on artifacts and daily life in the town. Information gleaned from the people and games is reinforced a few times, so students become experts on the material pretty quickly. The mini-games that can be played are quite varied: there's a puzzle game, memory game,  matching game, code breaking game, Roman numeral deciphering game, maze, and pipe connecting game. Students can also access and look at two authentic games of the time, Knucklebones, similar to Yahtzee, and Calculi, similar to Go. These last two games don't work, however, and the game's publisher doesn't currently have plans to fix the iOS version of the game.

In all, the app successfully blends a history lesson with puzzle-solving skills, with five areas of the city to explore. It's just a shame that it doesn't work completely. The game is free to begin but costs $3.99 to unlock the majority of the content, partway through the game.

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Learning is well-integrated into player exploration and mini-games, although it's mainly focused factual information and simple puzzle solving. As students explore the locations, the twins talk with people who describe daily life. As they play the mini-games, they learn real, tangible facts and skills such as deciphering Roman numerals, using logic to figure out codes, and learning what artifacts look like and are used for, including two tabletop games from the time. The games are all based on ancient daily life, so by the time students play the app for a while, they'll have had many facts reinforced through repetition. The built-in achievements encourage students to play the games repeatedly, improving on their previous performance. In general, the way the game is set up with repeated facts and artifact study will make sure students come away with a decent impression of what daily life was like in Pompeii. The text in some of the text boxes is cut off, however, which eliminates some of the possible learning, plus having two of the mini-games not work prevents students from completing the app.

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Overall Rating
2

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
2

The fun mini-games and the multiple areas of Pompeii to explore will hold student interest for a while, but some games are broken and impossible to complete.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3

Much of the learning involves reading text snippets; the mini-games reinforce facts and evidence, such as how Roman numerals work and what kinds of artifacts have been found from ancient Pompeii.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
3

Minimal guidance is required to navigate the app, and each individual mini-game offers instructions. But there's no help available when students struggle to complete the games and no extension activities.


Common Sense Reviewer
Jenny Bristol Homeschooling parent

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