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Horrible Histories Ruthless Romans on the Nintendo DS brings the bestselling grizzly history books for kids to the portable gaming genre. Following the same theme as the books the games takes a no nonsense approach to history leaving in all the nasty bits, but done in a fun and factual way.
History was always pretty dull at school as far as I can remember. The only project I recall doing is the Second World War, which my Mum said wasn't proper history anyway. It was handy to be able to phone my granny up and ask her things. Anyway, I wish we'd had something like Horrible Histories to make it all much more fun.
My kids are a bit young to really appreciate history lessons yet. Though my year 2 daughter has been studying the Great Fire of London this year at school, apart from this we've not had to delve into the past much for homework yet. I am looking forward to when they are old enough to get into things like Horrible Histories.
In Horrible Histories Ruthless Romans on the DS you are a trainee gladiator working towards being one of Rome's hero's. You navigate the roman city to find key people to talk to and unlock mini games, which helps you advance to the next level until you reach the accolade of becoming a Gladiator. There is quite a long introduction, setting the scene for the game and giving all those important bits about Roman history. What was funny is that the characters don't talk along with the introduction the only sound you get is them saying ‘blah blah blah'. Hard to describe, but quite funny and you'll see what I mean once you play it.
The grizzly nature of some of the Roman history contained in some of the quizzes, I'm not sure you would want sensitive or squeamish children to play this anyway.
The mini games are quite good and nicely themed around the Roman Empire. There are puzzles like Plemanism, where you have to do incredibly fast and multipule choice quizzes on different (usually grizzly) aspects of Roman life. The games are challenging enough, without being over difficult and there are loads of them, so lots to keep you amused.
The final step before you reach the next level of training is a duel in the coliseum. I found the duel a little odd – they just involved pressing a sequence of buttons on the DS in the right order (harder than it sounds), this was then interspersed with drawing puzzles. It all felt a bit random and not really like the end of level climax it could have been.
The Horrible Histories concept is great.
Maybe the games creators were trying to avoid a fighting element to the game, which might be a good thing if it is aimed at children. On the other hand reading the grizzly nature of some of the Roman history contained in some of the quizzes, I'm not sure you would want sensitive or squeamish children to play this anyway. They could have let rip with a real end of level fight, that would have certainly felt whoely appropriate.
Apart from a few multiple choice quizzes, the educational elements in this game are easy to by-pass, with the player having to select the book/manuscript icon in order to read about different aspects of the Roman story. Any slightly unwilling learners can easily skip this and just do the more fun mini games.
I'm not sure the idea of transferring Horrible Histories to the games world really works. The games are ok, but not likely to hold older children's attention for all that long. One game was colouring in a Roman centurion's armour, which my 6 year old could easily do, but she would never manage to read all the text prompts in the game, especially as they aren't accompanied by audio prompts as well, just ‘blah blah blah'! All of this leaves me with the feeling that the Horrible Histories concept is great, but probably best in its original book format.
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