Blast Martians & Learn Geography

Feb 26, 2007 by

Mars Sucks. Really.

Alright, so Mars doesn’t really suck (it’s one of my favorite planets besides Old Blue), but it’s inhabitants do. And they’re sucking up humans for their diabolical experiments right now!

That’s the premise behind a rather addictive game I’ve been playing lately for Google Earth. First reported on the gaming site Gamasutra, and then written up on the Google Earth Blog, Mars Sucks is a fantastic game that engages the player, entertains with cartoonish space invaders, and teaches geography in a rather clever and unsuspecting way.

Mars Sucks

That’s me on the left there, learning all about Fiji; the capital is Suva, it’s a group of islands in the Southern Pacific, and oh yeah, blasting Martian scum makes you popular with the locals! Seriously though, the game is quite fun to play and by using guiding clues it helps the player navigate the Google Earth globe while picking up interesting facts and information about countries around the world. This evening I not only saved Russia, Ecuador, and Fiji, but I also learned that Nigeria is roughly twice the size of California, Australia is the fourth largest country in the world, and that Saudi Arabia has no fresh water lakes. Not bad for an alien-zapping guy hero like me.

The controls on the game are a bit wonky. Rather than click on the alien spacecraft to blow it from the sky (which would be highly intuitive), you must place your target over the craft, and then pause for a second while your lasers are activated. Once you’re firing you have to “wiggle” the target around on the spacecraft and let go of the mouse button in order to get in the 3 or 4 hits you need to take the craft down. Kids will have no problem with this, although many adults may 🙂 While searching for the aliens the player is presented with clues about the country that’s being attacked. Clues can range from simple (the capital) to quite difficult (different languages spoken in the country). Using the search box was a great way for me to quickly zoom around the globe once I had the name of a city, a province, or the country. I also needed the zoom in/out tool as well to locate the aliens (they don’t always show themselves right away when you got to the right country). It was a great way to help practice using the search function and tools in Google Earth, have a blast (forgive the pun), and learn some interesting geographical facts.

Definitely a time waster, but an educational one that would fit in quite nicely as an anchor activity, bell work, or a computer station during Social Studies time. I had to download Google Earth 4 in order to play it, so if you’re still running version 3 it might be time for an upgrade. Just click and download the network link below to play Mars Sucks, the game that proves once again all that is needed to stop an alien invasion are a few kids and a death ray.

Mars Sucks Game

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3 Comments

  1. Ben,

    Looks like a fun game but I disapprove of the game’s name. I strongly discourage “sucks” as acceptable elementary vocabulary.

  2. Ben

    That’s a great point Diane, and to be honest, at the time I didn’t even think about that name. I could write it off as not being in my “teacher mode”, but when it comes down to it, the clever title really does limit it’s use in the elementary setting. I would have to say stick with middle school for this game as the humor of the title and the Martians sucking up people might be more appropriate.

    It’s a shame that so much great content and so many great resources often are passed up due to some tiny element that if altered, would make it usable in a much wider k-12 environment.

  3. Tom

    Well. . . since I teach middle school it’s fair game. So thanks :).

    My mother in law thinks sucks is on par with other four letter words but it’s so common now I don’t think about it at all- kind of like shut up. If I think about the idea of swearing too much I go historical and start ranting about the French and Norman egotism until people make me stop. It’s so odd how culture works. That’s what I get for being a history major.

    Tom

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