Here’s the problem with educational games: if they’re educational they’re not fun, and if they’re fun they’re not educational. Few games get the balance right; The Land of Venn – Geometric Defense comes close.
Developer Imagine Machine claims that this game teaches basic geometry. Specifically, the developer says the game aligns with Common Core standards and Van Hiele’s Levels of Geometric Thought. levels 2 and 3. Basically, what this means is that grade-school kids who play this game will learn geometric concepts and shapes: the point, the line, several types of triangles, the parallelogram, the trapezoid, the quadrilateral, the rhombus, the recantangle, and the square. They’ll be able to tell the difference, for example, between an isoceles triangle and an equilateral triangle. And they will absorb some facts about the geometric properties of the shapes.
The game does seem to do a good job of teaching geometric shapes. On each level, colorful and amazingly cute monsters march continuously toward a pool of juice in which your (also cute) creature lounges. Before they get to the pool and suck it dry with their straws, you must destroy them by drawing shapes. Parallelograms are more powerful than triangles, triangles are more powerful than lines, and so on. You earn gold as you play, and you can use the gold to buy power-ups to blow even more monsters away before they suck the pool dry and you lose. The music urges you along, and a silly voice with an indeterminate European-type accent names the shapes you are drawing.
It’s hard to explain just how frantic this game can get—and that’s what makes it so much fun. The levels are just hard enough to provide a high level of engagement.
All that leads to my main point, which is that The Land of Venn is, I think, more fun than it is educational. Kids need to learn their shapes, for sure, and this game will help with that. But in my opinion the fun factor far outshines the game’s educational value for teaching geometry. However, as a bonus, kids might get signficant cognitive benefits from the game’s fast pace and multi-tasking practice. (Recent research says that action-adventure games may offer more cognitive benefits than brain-training games.)
The game’s website points out that the game also teaches strategy. “While the game concentrates on teaching geometry, the store is designed to optimally develop the child’s arithmetic capabilities of estimation, knowledge of numbers as well as using the decimal system.” It’s true that you have to learn to pick the best power-ups to get you through the harder levels.
I think that educational games that aren’t fun are a bit of a waste, because the main strength of games for learning is that they keep you engaged long enough to learn. So I think The Land of Venn – Geometric Defense is a good choice. I’d buy it just for the terrific character design, fantastical environments, silly voice-over, and great music.
The Land of Venn – Geometric Defense is rated 4+ on the App Store. The violence is mostly limited to seeing cute cartoony monsters get destroyed in various cartoony ways. The game is available on the App Store for iPhone and iPad for $4.99. I got it from Amazon for my Android phone for $0.99.