National Geographic Challenge
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2011-12-26 Xbox 360 Educational E (Everyone) Nat Geo Games / Ignition

With the introduction of the Kinect to the 360's lineup, family or even educational games have become a fairly popular genre with game developers. From Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster to Disneyland Adventures and beyond, the console is no longer the adult-only playground in the way many outsiders used to view it. While National Geographic Challenge from Ignition doesn't support Kinect, it has now joined that growing genre of games for families and kids on the platform.

National Geographic Challenge contains a few gameplay modes that simply offer different ways to test either yourself or friends through hundreds of different quiz questions, all separated by continent on the globe. The most basic Quiz Mode allows you to choose a landmass (North America, for instance), and then choose a quiz length (up to 80 questions) and difficulty (Easy or Hard questions). You'll earn points through a combination of multiple choice, true or false and memory questions (those that ask you to remember details about a video), with more points being awarded for being the fastest to answer, among other stipulations.

The other main gameplay mode, Explorer, is a board game of sorts, played on a globe with countries representing spaces you can land on. Each player (up to four) is assigned a color, with the object being to claim as many countries as possible in that color while earning points.

Landing on a country triggers a quiz for either a single player or the whole group, and you can steal countries from other players by beating them head-to-head through jigsaw puzzle battles or other basic quizzes.

Unfortunately, while the gameplay interface works well, assigning answers to the A, B, X and Y buttons, the entirety of the setup is rather boring. While the gameplay can be compared to You Don't Know Jack, the announcer isn't nearly as entertaining, with voice loops that repeat far too often. Furthermore, the video segments are disjointed, causing major slowdown as the game struggles to load them in, while the quality is just as questionable. When being quizzed on New York City for instance, one video may be fairly up-to-date with relevant billboards in Times Square while the next is a blurry and outdated eye sore with images of the World Trade Center (as a testament to its age). Finally, some video segments have absolutely nothing to do with the questions you're asked. Unless this was deliberate (a way to throw the user off base and make the quizzes harder - which I doubt), it's a disappointing oversight.

Outside of the two major gameplay modes, you can also complete a variety of Slider, Jigsaw and Square Jigsaw puzzles back at the main menu. It adds length to a game where questions start repeating after just two or three rounds, which is good, but there's really no incentive to actually complete them other than for the sake of achievements or simply viewing National Geographic's image catalog.

All told, National Geographic Challenge struggles to be educational, as the questions are either common knowledge (we tested it even at a fourth grade education level), or are so difficult that only those with a penchant for geography, history or anthropology would know the answers without taking a stab in the dark. With its other technical issues, we're left with a budget title that unfortunately deserves its price.

Special thanks to Bender / Helper and Ignition for providing a copy of this title.