There are two trends in education.
The old school believes in learning numbers and facts by rote. The new school prefers to concentrate on research skills arguing the internet means being able to source good facts is better than memorising a few dusty half truths.
Both are right. Kids who can't spell or add up don't understand the importance of basic facts while post-modern analysis means the accuracy of the received wisdom is always up for grabs.
It's a situation that's beautifully expressed in the user interface and data flow of Map My Mind: a game which twists basic quiz structure into something novel and exciting.When Q meets A
The starting point, as you'd expect, is choosing a subject category. There are 15 in total; three of each from five main sectors: entertainment, social science, sports, culture and natural science.
Select one and then you're dropped into its mind map. This starts simply with a subject node that has a couple lines coming out of it, each of which contains a question. Tap on one of the question mark icons to answer.
The structure of the questions is either: multiple choice (out of four); four answers to put into the correct order (say by date, size, density etc); or eight pieces of information to connect (say four films to four directors, or metals to their chemical symbols etc).
Helping you along the way are your wild cards. These are: a 50:50, which removes two answers; a check so you can see if your selected answer is correct before you submit it; and an escape card which enables you to skip the question entirely.
Assuming you answer the question correctly, the line and question icon lights up and a new subject node (or nodes) are revealed.Failure is not the end
What's really nice about this structure is that getting a question wrong isn't a disaster. For one thing, you have three life lines, which mean you can select up to three failed questions for another attempt. Alternatively, each question node is connected to at least two question lines, so you can always just approach it from another direction.
What's even neater is that if you've successfully completed the questions on either side of an unanswered question node, it will light up and automatically unlock. This adds a strategic option to the game as you've usually got various different directional options to attack through.
Indeed, the visual design and flow of the game is one of its strongest features as you scroll around an increasingly complex map of lines and nodes, seeing where you can go next. You can also pinch-zoom to check out specific areas, while further gameplay options include nodes which are locked until you have scored a certain number of points or have answered enough of the linking question lines.
Obviously the point of the game is to answer as many questions correctly. Unlocking all the question nodes in the map or not being able to select any questions because of previous failures and lack of wild cards, are the game’s two end conditions.
In each case, you're awarded a high score - each node has a points total attached - while using as few wild cards and getting as few questions wrong boosts your stats.
High scores and achievements are dealt with using the AGON Online social gaming network, which is works well. Although there is the limitation that if you don't or can't log into the system because of personal choice or because you don't have access to an internet connection, your stats aren't saved, which is a significant oversight.
In addition to the main Map mode, there's a Trivia mode, which employs more of a traditional quiz structure in which you either have a limited time to answer 10, 20 or 30 questions, or play for as long as possible without getting anything wrong. There are no question icons or subject nodes here, and you're answering the same questions as the main Map mode.
Of course, the novel nature of Map My Mind does take some getting used to, but the only real criticism of the game is the occasional ambiguity in, and the varying difficulty level of, the questions themselves. The structure also means that you won't get very far playing a map about a subject you know little about.
Another annoyance concerns the extra nuggets of facts that are provided when you correctly answer a question, which at best are often irrelevant and on occasions totally unrelated. The cartoon in-game brainiac character has something of Microsoft's infamous Office Assistant about him too.
Set against the wider context of Map My Mind however, these are minor points. For the quiz fans, there's plenty to get stuck into and you can download extra maps. These cost 99c per subject - currently mythology, TV series, medicine, WWII and basketball, with more to be added no doubt.
Yes, people, it's time to get your thinking caps on.