Galxyz is a new science education app for tablet computers (or playable online) intended for children in upper elementary school (third grade and up: the ability to read is a requirement for independent play). It’s based on the Next Generation Science Standards, the first interactive learning experience to do so. When GeekDad Curtis Silver let us know it was available (he’s their social media guy), we jumped on it. My eight-year-old rising-third-grade daughter and I have been playing it on my iPad for a few days now and we’ve really enjoyed it.
The app uses a narrative structure in which a young blue-skinned person named Thalo (you can choose a male or female version: my daughter chose the female version) walks through an icy landscape and meets a small flying squirrel-like creature. The creature turns out to be Grit, a Chakkaran on a mission to protect the Tome and guard scientific knowledge. Grit guides Thalo through text to explore aspects of science, and, along the way, teaches scientific terminology and concepts.
My daughter really enjoyed the app overall and I found it both fun and informative. We played the first two modules, and I’ve promised to buy her the additional modules for our upcoming road trip to Grandma’s house. The pricing model seems reasonable to me, at ninety-nine cents for on new module, $7.99 for all available modules or a subscription option for all future modules. The first two modules took her around twenty minutes each to complete, and she has enjoyed repeat play with them while she waits for road trip day.
Things we liked:
- The app does a good job cuing you as to what to do, with onscreen arrows or hints in the dialogue boxes. At the beginning, there’s even a giant blue hand that demonstrates how to move your character through the landscape. It was very intuitive for my Minecraft-loving girl.
- My daughter enjoyed the way Thalo and Grit talked. Everything Grit says sounds like the word “Cake!” or “Thalo!” and Thalo speaks in emotive sounds, but their words are translated into English above in colorful thought bubbles, color-coded to match the characters.
- The animation is attractive and the characters are cute.
- My daughter enjoyed playing with the appearance options for her character (though we did wonder why hair options are under “cubbies”).
- The narrative structure definitely worked to pull her in with curiosity about what was going to happen next.
Things that we didn’t like:
- Some of the dialogue is forced. As a teacher myself, I know it can be difficult to work the content into the fun in a way that feels natural. Galxyz succeeds better at some times than others.
- Sometimes we got out of sequence. For example, my daughter found the area where you can choose appearance details for your avatar before the game wanted her to, and she had to re-enter it later when the narrative wanted her to. When we replayed it, we opened the door without picking the armor first. She didn’t find that particularly frustrating, but I found it clumsy.
- There’s a BIG jump between the simple pattern-matching activities of the first couple of puzzles into remembering vocabulary detail from the lecture with a lot of detail and specificity. My daughter got frustrated when she couldn’t instantly remember all the information she needed for that puzzle.
- You cannot begin using the app if you are not connected to the internet. We bought the app for our daughter at home, then handed the iPad to her in the car, only to find she couldn’t play until we did some set-up online first. That’s not a problem overall, but there’s nothing in the opening screens to tell us that, so we were caught by surprise.
- If you don’t confirm your email right away, there’s a constant scrolling message asking you to do so. It’s a little naggy and annoying (to me; my daughter didn’t care).
All in all, it’s an enjoyable app that looks promising for the science terminology our daughter will be exposed to in her play. I recommend it.