I am happy to report that my unerring shooting in SatDef spared Miami from deadly asteroids so LeBron and company lived to play in another NBA final. Fogbridge Corporation has created a fun and challenging game that uses correct answers to division problems as fuel for the satellite defense system that protects a number of big cities from alien energy shielded missiles and planet busting asteroids. This app is first and foremost a game that happens to use math, rather than an educational app that happens to use a game to learn. I'm usually skeptical of these gimmicks but in this case it works.
The stage is set as soon as the app loads. A map of North America with only lights visible appears on screen. Users are asked to enter a call sign and then may select a mission. The missions are identified by big targets over major metropolitan areas of the US and Mexico. I guess Europe and Asia, and Canada will have to fend for themselves.
Cadets have the option of an easy, medium or hard battle. The speed and number of missiles in play increases in difficulty as opposed to the complexity of the math facts. Help is cleverly disguised as a training mission during which the game fires for you and stops play to explain all aspects of the weaponry. The app uses all the standard gaming features: fuel cells, powers ups, and missile shields. Plasma torpedoes and multi-zap lasers come on line when four targets get blasted.
The 9-12 year olds for whom the math is appropriate will have no problem mastering the arsenal at their disposal. The answers are presented as numbers from 3-9 on the right side of the screen. Touching the correct answer means the player's ship shoots and destroys the enemy missile with the matching math problem.
After my successful defense of Miami, I got promoted to Ensign. Players can move through the ranks by completing missions, but higher ranks bring tougher scenarios with more problems fired and quicker responses required. Mission Control tracks wrong answers and sends those problems through multiple times until mastered. Otherwise, the ordering of questions is widely varied and keeps you on your toes.
When I selected a hard battle as a high ranking Commander in Simulator Mode, Mexico City sustained extreme damage. Answering division problems with missiles being fired at you isn't that easy. Kids will master the math required to play long before they master all the levels of the game. Most descriptions of this app refer to times tables, but the problems test division skills presented as 49/7 or 20/5. The possible answers never change nor do the attack forces. After successive levels, the game does lose its thrill. It takes a long time to finish a level and there is very little else going on onscreen other than shooting.
Graphically, the nighttime lights are cool but the game is very dark overall. The cities are referred to, but there are no images of them, their citizens screaming and running from alien missiles or not. The background would be a lot more interesting if, instead of just stars, the player played on top of each city's nightscape.
Parents that limit their kids TV, computer and video game time will have to decide whether SatDef counts against that time. It's a fun and challenging game with realistic sounds and graphics. It tracks high scores which are the fastest times defending a city, supports a full regiment of players and even speaks the player's name at certain points. All this happens while legitimately running through math drills at machine gun speed, at least at the higher levels.
SatDef certainly livens up recall of math facts, but hardcore gamers may wish to keep their schoolwork and play separate.
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Lieutenant Walrus (Jill Goodman) wrote this review and is prepared to defend the world with her cohorts in the Zombie Killing Operative. FogBridge Corporation is an advertiser at smartappsforkids.com.