It’s not often that you come across an educational app aimed at kids that’s a genuinely fun, graphics-rich video game that adults will enjoy as well, and even less often that you find one set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland full of broken-down cars and sand sharks. It’s probably safe to say that Tory Odyssey: Motion Commotion, the new app from Tory Belleci of MythBusters fame – launching today – is the only member of that category, and it’s well worth a look.
Set on a near-future Earth right out of the Mad Max movies, Tory Odyssey aims to teach kids principles of math and science as a part of entertaining them. The game tasks players with escaping the desert created by nuclear destruction and the general deterioration of civilization, with video help from Tory himself and “Mr. D, the Mad Professor,” who acts as instructor.
I’ve played around with the app for a while on my iPhone, and found it to be a lot of fun. The controls for driving vehicles felt more intuitive than I’ve usually found them to be in mobile games, and the verisimilitude of the graphics and the little details in the post-apocalyptic world – look for things like the ruins of a gas station with prices listed at over $28 per gallon – really kept it entertaining, even though I’m sure it would hold the attention of someone who didn’t already understand the principles of physics a little better than it would hold mine.
I had the opportunity to talk with Belleci about the game. Here’s a bit of the interview:
GeekDad: Where did the idea originally come from?
Tory Belleci: Brian Leckey, who used to be a director on MythBusters – he comes and goes; we have some directors who pop in and direct an episode – he and I met while he was directing our team (the build team) and as we worked together we created this friendship, and we just started bouncing ideas back and forth. And he came to me with this idea of an app – you know, an educational kind of video app, and he originally pitched this idea of catapults and castles, and learning through different weights that you would put on the catapult, and different weights that you would throw, and how far it would throw. And I just felt like we should do something more in line with what MythBusters is about, which is crazy builds, crazy rockets, crashing cars, racing cars. So then we kind of shifted into that kind of mindset and went into the realm of this post-apocalyptic world: How would you be able to get across this treacherous terrain with all the things that were left over on the planet?
GD: I really like the idea of the post-apocalyptic theme – it’s really unusual, especially in a game aimed at kids. Where did the specific idea for that setting come from?
TB: Well, I’ve always been a huge fan of Mad Max, and Road Warrior was probably one of the first sci-fi movies I saw as a kid that just kind of blew my mind, and for me that realm is… there’s so much creativity in a world like that, where you’re talking about thousands of cars that are just laying around, and toxic waste that could create mutations within animals, and create these crazy monsters. So for me, just being a science fiction geek, that was kind of like an area that I just wanted to place the game in.
GD: I’m not that familiar with Michael DiSpezio, who does the science piece of it…?
TB: Oh, yeah, our mad scientist! (laughs) So that is actually a friend of Brian Leckey’s. He does some shows – his whole thing is taking science and making it simple for anybody to grasp. And that was what we needed for this, because our age target is like 8 to 12 years old, and so we really wanted to make sure that – for me, when I’m playing a video game it’s like, if it’s not fun, you’re not going to play it. And if they’re not going to play it, they’re not going to learn the science and the math that we’ve put into the game. So they’re going to be learning by default, you know what I mean? It’s very similar to MythBusters, where we never set out to be a science show – we set out to be an entertaining show, but because of the nature of the show you can’t help but learn by watching.
Tory Odyssey: Motion Commotion is available for $0.99 for iOS at the iTunes Store and for Android on Google Play. The game is aimed at kids ages 8-12, but I’m sure there are kids a bit younger who could handle it just fine, and certainly older kids who would enjoy it – heck, I enjoyed it, and plan to keep it on my phone so I can come back to it. Watch a promo video for the game below: