Monday, December 9, 2013

Review & Giveaway: That's Baloney!, Educational App

One of my favorite PC games growing up was Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego?. As you traveled through time and around the world, you had to follow clues to figure out where to head next to catch Carmen and her gang.

The historical clues mentioned tons of things I had not learned in school yet and at first, I was making no progress. I wanted to beat the game so badly, I started looking everything up in our set of encyclopedias (these were pre-Google days, of course).

I learned a lot of history this way, and I discovered a love for the subject that followed me through college, where I majored in the subject. Without Carmen Sandiego, I may never have been set on that path.

That's Baloney!, a new iOS/Android app by Evanced Games that I recently had the chance to try out, reminded me of the challenge of Carmen Sandiego. Players are presented with statements in a variety of subjects in grade levels 2-6 and have to decide whether each is true or just baloney.

Before I played the game, I thought it would be too simple: you have a 50-50 chance of judging each statement correctly even if you guess, and you can make several mistakes and still complete a round successfully.  Instead, I found That's Baloney! inspired the same desire to learn what was wrong about a particular statement when I guessed correctly that it was "baloney."

When you answer incorrectly, you are given a "pickle" that tells you why you were wrong. When you answer correctly, the game continues as you slowly eat your way through a stack of baloney. If you answer correctly that something is baloney, you aren't told immediately what was wrong with the statement, but at the end of the round you can read explanations of what exactly was wrong.

As you successfully complete rounds, snacks and sandwiches begin to fill your virtual fridge (where players keep track of what they've done). With over 500 unique questions for each subject at each grade level, there is a lot of food to be collected.

The questions are challenging, written at a level that might intimidate struggling readers at first but are short enough to push them to succeed. The game is untimed, so kids can take their time reading and considering each statement thoughtfully. When I spoke with the game's designers last week, they told me that the statements are based on Common Core standards and are aimed at building reading comprehension as much as anything else. That's Baloney! is actually an adaptation of an award-winning card game with the same premise.

I recommend this game for your tablet and smartphone-wielding children and students in the target age range (grades 2-6, ages 4-8). Honestly, I found myself feeling like I was on Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? as I lost a round of supposedly 5th grade statements. The same desire to learn the right answer that followed me when playing Carmen Sandiego followed me in That's Baloney!, as I read each explanation at the end of the round.

Evanced Games has given me a download code to get That's Baloney! for free (normally $2.99 for iOS/Android), and that's what I'm offering to one lucky reader!  Send an email with the subject "That's Baloney" to by 11:59pm CST this Tuesday to enter, and I'll pick a random winner who will get the code. Good luck!