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Empire Run app review

empire run titleThe setup of Empire Run (Planet H/Red Games, 2014; iOS only) is similar to another Planet H/Red Games app, Frontier Heroes (and with the same caveat about some arguably stereotypical images; see details below) several sections, themed by historical time period, each contain a few games; each game has a number of different levels which allow the player to earn stars. A new time period is accessed by completing tasks and amassing stars in the unit before.

empire run menu empire run egypt

At the beginning of each new era, the user is given a brief historical overview and shown the empire’s location on a world map.

Unlike Frontier Heroes, however, in Empire Run, the games in each time period follow the same pattern: “Race,” “Defeat,” and “Survive.” In each game, the user, depicted as a young white boy in “period” dress, must run through a Super Mario–like left-to-right landscape, collecting coins, jumping over obstacles, and bouncing on bad guys. The user collects a coin labeled “D.Y.K.” (“Did You Know”) in each game to unlock a fact at game’s end. Much like Frontier Heroes‘ activities, these games are fun. Since the level of difficulty increases throughout each unit, the experience is engaging and challenging.

Moving from Ancient Egypt: 2500 B.C. through the Roman Empire: 10 B.C., the Maya Empire: 600 A.D., Ming Dynasty: 1500 A.D., and into the Mughal Empire: 1650 A.D., however, little changes except the boy’s clothing and the enemies present. Here the boy races through a Roman Empire, dressed as a Centurion; here he defeats enemies in a very, very similar setting. (And, much like Frontier Heroes‘ portrayals of non-white characters, the depictions of those enemies are fairly stereotyped — the bad guys in the Mughal Empire look a little bit like Disney’s Jafar if he beefed up). However, the levels themselves change it up from attempt to attempt. The user isn’t able to learn how a certain level is structured and then make adjustments; on each play, the level keeps the same basic idea but alters the placement of obstacles and dangers.

The games don’t teach much history — the historical facts are little more than trivia, and in Ancient Egypt, the enemies are oh-so-historically-accurate reanimated mummies — but the challenge can still make the palms sweat.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 4.3 or later); free. For primary and intermediate users.

Siân Gaetano About Siân Gaetano

Siân Gaetano is assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc. Follow her on Twitter @KidLitChick.

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