Review: Extreme North
If you’re a budding explorer or have a taste for history, then Extreme North might be the title for you. It’s more than a game, it’s an interactive history lesson. Filled with short text passages and mini-games, you are taken on a voyage of discovery about Arctic exploration in both the 16th and 19th centuries. Read on to find out whether this is one history lesson that can overcome the attention span of the online generation.
Version Reviewed: 1.01(0)
Extreme North tells the tale of two seafaring Arctic expeditions; the voyage of Willem Barentz (1596-1597), and the voyage of Nordenskiöld (1878-1880).
The selection screen for which voyage to join
The game is filled with interstitial artwork which really grabs your attention and evokes the hardship that those early explorers went through.
Before the voyage - in civilisation
Showing that Arctic exploration wasn’t fun or easy
The bulk of the game is presented via period maps, with paths marking the way between points of interest. Each waypoint brings up a parchment telling you something about its history in the given period. There’s even a reward for doing so, as scrolling to the bottom will reveal coins for you to drag into your treasure chest! As you set off on your voyage, there are also other objects to collect around the Arctic Circle, which forms something of an achievement system.
Starting your journey
Being paid to learn!
Extreme North isn’t just all about reading though. Between points of interest, there are quizzes and mini-games to play too. In the case of the former, you are challenged to answer a round of four multiple choice questions. If you don’t do very well, you’re invited to repeat them. So yes, you can cheat. However, even if you keep trying every answer until you it get it right, you still end up learning what the answer is, which is what this game is all about - learning.
Extreme North checks that you’ve been doing your homework!
The mini-games in Extreme North are all about fun, there’s very little learning to be had in these, which is no bad thing. Without these fun interludes, Extreme North could become quite dry after a while. Having said that, the games do attempt to reflect the difficulties faced by explorers, albeit in a very artificial form.
Using the accelerometer to take navigational readings in rough seas
For example, in the Barentz voyage, some of the mini-games explore the difficulty of navigating with a cross staff on a constantly rolling deck (see above), and surviving alongside hungry polar bears. The latter game has several parts, including a rather silly episode where polar bears have to be chased off with snowballs!
Spotting polar bears
Hitting polar bears with snow balls!
Guiding your crew back to the shelter without getting caught
Another educational part of the game that mixes things up a bit is regularly talking to one of your crew members. This is done in the old style of choosing whether to reply with answer A or B. This helps give some immersion into the game, by ‘getting to know’ one of the men under your command.
Learning from one of your crew
Another aspect, mentioned above, that compels you to play, is the achievement system. This takes the form of a treasure chest, where you can add coins and objects from the map. You’ll also find medals gained from the mini-games and quizzes, so you can see how well you did.
Viewing your achievements and trinkets
Overall, Extreme North isn’t a game for someone who wants that quick fire feedback and satisfaction of solving a puzzle or playing arcade games. It’s best to think of Extreme North as an interactive history book. In that way, I think this title will appeal to young and old, providing the curiosity is there in the first place. Best of all, Extreme North is free in the Ovi Store.
For me, Extreme North is a great way of building and encouraging curiosity about history, and I hope to see more titles like it.
David Gilson for All About Symbian, 12th September 2011.
Reviewed by David Gilson at