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App review by Caryn Lix, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2014
Time Explorer

Time Explorer

Journey back into ancient history is fun but thin on content

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Social Studies

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Pros: Informative levels give players a quick primer on key ancient civilizations.

Cons: Game design doesn't integrate learning well enough, and the interface doesn't always cooperate.

Bottom Line: There's some entertaining, light factual history learning that'll offer a nice change of pace for students, but ultimately it has limited appeal due to lack of depth and breadth.

Time Explorer works best as a way to pique kids' interests in ancient civilizations. It can also be an excellent introduction to the idea of primary sources: What might an archaeologist find after the earthquake collapses the Aztec temple, for example? How could you piece together the history, and what might this temple look like before and after the disaster?

The game also offers a starting point for investigating the British Museum and its website, which has a lot of excellent information. One idea would be to combine time travel with student exploration of the British Museum. Using research they conduct and things they discover on the British Museum's website, students could write historically accurate stories of time travel, for example, or create their own board games with a similar premise.

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Editor's Note: Time Explorer is no longer available.

In Time Explorer, students travel through time to prevent disasters. In each of the four scenarios -- Aztec Mexico, ancient Rome, imperial China, and ancient Egypt -- a priceless artifact is in danger, and only the player can prevent its destruction. Students must travel back through time, navigate the ancient sites, and solve puzzles to reach and save the objects.

Along the way, there are a number of mini games, interesting facts, and puzzles that they'll need to solve to progress. None of the puzzles are particularly difficult, but there are enough hazards to create a challenge. The game provides plenty of information, interesting tidbits, and factoids in an easy-to-digest format. Once the artifact is saved, players return to the British Museum lobby to try again.

If you want kids to learn about ancient cultures, this is an engaging way to do it -- more interesting than reading a textbook or watching a video. Time Explorer offers a fantastic introduction to any of these civilizations, or a good way to spark a conversation about ancient artifacts and primary sources.

However, none of the puzzles are particularly challenging or well aligned to learning outcomes (they tend to be of the "find a round object and place it in the round depression" variety). There are some puzzles that require students to use information they've collected along the way, but most can be solved more quickly by trial and error. Most of the learning comes through facts students gain during gameplay. While the game's four levels are fun and engaging, it won't hold interest enough to warrant a second playthrough, but this is still a fun introductory game.

Overall Rating


It's a neat concept with some fun details, but sometimes the gameplay feels arbitrary and not meshed well with learning; there's also nothing to extend play after solving each level.


Problem solving takes center stage and kids will absorb interesting facts, but the skills-building is light -- many puzzles don't require much critical thinking, and the facts kids learn aren't useful in the context of the game.


The game isn't difficult to figure out, but if kids do get stuck, there aren't a lot of hints to nudge them along.

Common Sense reviewer
Caryn Lix Classroom teacher

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