Monkey Tales: An Educational Experience

The Larian Studios game, for ages 7-11, aims to brush up math and logic skills.

Monkey Tales is a series of educational games by Larian Studios, originally released in 2011 and repackaged together in a Steam release last week. Designed for ages 7 through 11, these games use an algorithm to establish your child's learning curve and ramp difficulty up or down to ensure a well-tailored learning experience.

I happen to have two children in this age range, and Larian Studios was kind enough to offer a review code for the game. My kids, in 2nd and 5th grade, gave the game a whirl and offered their insight on the experience.

5th Grader (Age 10) - Gaming Experience: Started on PlayStation 2 and Gamecube games at age 3; has played Free Realms and EverQuest II; currently plays Minecraft and The Sims 3

  • Tutorial: "The tutorial was good, but I couldn't find a way to exit to the main menu when I was in it." [turns out you need to be in a game, not the map view, to exit to main menu]
  • Fun: "It was both fun and funny. I enjoyed the facts they gave, and liked the laser game, enemies and the monkeys."
  • Difficulty: "For fifth grade, it felt too easy, but I think it is getting harder as I keep playing."
  • Mom Note: She had an easy time figuring out the game and blasted through the tutorial. The math problems I observed her doing were simple addition (such as 10+7) though, which seemed shockingly easy for a 5th grader to be started on. After watching my 2nd grader play, it seems that the tutorial simply uses the same problems for everyone.

2nd Grader (Age 7) - Gaming Experience: Started on Free Realms at age 2.5; currently plays Minecraft, The Sims 3, Civilization V and Dungeon Defenders

  • Tutorial: "It was hard. I kept dying and having to restart in the ship part on the moving platforms."
  • Fun: "I did have fun but I'm not sure I want to play again because I'm stuck on that platform."
  • Difficulty: No quote on this, but the math problems in the tutorial were suited perfectly for his grade level.
  • Mom Note: He was able to solve the math problems fine and really enjoyed doing that part. I ended up having to leave the room while he was doing the platform portion of the tutorial, where he kept having to restart the level (pictured above); he understood what he needed to do, but the game was unforgiving for clunky movement. As a parent, it was difficult to resist the urge to jump in and do it for him. Both kids had the same tutorial, but I'm a bit surprised the algorithm for solving problems doesn't also extend to realizing a kid is stuck on walking around a level. He spent six minutes restarting that tutorial level before throwing in the towel; it was frustrating to watch him go from having a lot of fun to getting very upset at the game.

Monkey Tales does a fair job at entertaining kids, offering a fun game environment to practice their skills in. My 5th grader has played again since her weekend review session, but my 2nd grader is still a bit sour on his experience for the moment. Practice makes perfect, and Monkey Tales certainly reinforces that point. If your child is in this age range and needs some extra math practice at home, you can pick up the game now for $14.99 on Steam.

Ann "Cyliena" Hosler, Managing Editor


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