App review by John Sooja, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2015
Valiant Hearts: The Great War
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Valiant Hearts: The Great War

Heartfelt story-as-history-lesson humanizes World War I

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Learning rating
Editorial review by Common Sense Education
Community rating
Based on 2 reviews
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Grades
6–12
Subjects & Skills
Social Studies, Character & SEL, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Great story, extremely engaging, gorgeous to look at.

Cons: Collectibles -- containing a lot of the historical detail -- can sometimes be hard to see.

Bottom Line: Part history lesson, part action, part puzzler, all wrapped inside a sincere and emotional story that builds skills, historical knowledge, and empathy.

Students can work in teams to solve the puzzles, and they can journal individually about what the story, chapter by chapter, makes them think about. What does Karl and Emile’s relationship make you think about? What do you think about conscription? What was trench warfare like, and how do you think modern warfare differs? 

Students might also endeavor to find all the collectibles, which would "unlock" all the information "hidden" in the game. Students might be tasked with annotating as much useful and interesting information from the game as possible, which would most likely require them to read every text document and every description of an object or item.

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Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a 2-D puzzler with some action centering on a handful of characters, each caught up in World War I. Either conscripted, out for vengeance, or out to help those in need of aid, each character is well developed and matters to the story -- including the player's ever-valiant companion, Walt the dog. Players solve environmental puzzles and progress through the story, which features historical markers that help place characters realistically in specific battles or other contexts. 

Presented in a cartoony, comic book-style sheen, the overall art design is beautiful and crisp. But Valiant Hearts does not shy away from the brutalities of war: loss, devastation, death, injustice, and suffering. Once through to the end, players may shed a tear or two, and perhaps may even draw some connections to modern life and conflicts.

While Valiant Hearts was made for a general audience, middle school is most likely the game’s best fit. World War I collectibles are scattered about each level, and finding them will reveal in-depth descriptions and background information about the item or object. Often very fascinating, these historical fact sheets are perfect for day projects and activities that would require closer looks at the relevance and importance of certain objects, tools, advancements in technology, and/or other artifacts that help illuminate what life was like for the soldiers and citizens of war-inflicted nations. Also, a helpful outline of the timeline and events structures each level, and each page contains yet more historical information, facts, and important events of the war. This factual information, while great, is supplemental to play wherein players mainly solve puzzles and advance the story. Better marriage of these two elements would make the experience really extraordinary for students.

Overall Rating

Engagement

The story gets going right away and will compel students to push on, puzzle after puzzle, to see the characters to the end. Standard puzzle action is spiced up with basic racing, dodging, and rhythm mini-games.

Pedagogy

Historical facts and information are available, but not necessarily baked into play. Much of the story was composed from real letters, some of which are shown in-game. Photographs, also real, work as wonderful accompanying visual aids.

Support

The puzzles are never too tough, and the action scenes are very forgiving. There's also a very handy Hint button. Since it's not aimed at students, however, there's not much in the way of extensions or assessment.


Common Sense reviewer
John Sooja Classroom teacher

Community Rating

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Featured review by
Jacob R. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
West Hills Middle School
West Jordan, United States
Great Starting Point for WW I Perspectives
Can be a good enrichment activity after teaching about Solider's experiences. Could also be used as an exploration activity to get students interested in intriguing facts on trench warfare.
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