Carmen Sandiego Adventures in Math: The Lady Liberty Larceny

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Carmen Sandiego Adventures in Math: The Lady Liberty Larceny Game Poster Image
Fun, low-budget, educational gumshoeing adventure.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Educational Value

Kids can learn about mathematical ideas and some world geography while jetting to locations across the globe in this educational adventure game designed for middle-school audiences. Players will learn a little about the customs, cultures, and famous locations in cities such as Berlin and New York. They'll also have a chance to use math skills they've learned in school -- like recognizing factor pairs -- which will help them solve mysteries and earn clues. By solving the mystery found in Carmen Sandiego Adventures in Math: The Lady Liberty Larceny, kids learn about world cultures and practice mathematical concepts.

Positive Messages

This game’s upbeat, gumshoeing story weaves several learning themes into its action, including math, geography, and basic reasoning.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Players interact with fellow ACME agents, civilians, and persons of interest, most of whom are helpful and want to see justice served. The player’s character, meanwhile, doggedly works to unravel the mystery set before him (or her – players get to select their avatar), and serves as a fine example of a law enforcement officer.

Ease of Play

The difficulty of the game’s math problems swings up and down. Two were simple enough that first-graders could figure them out, while others that involve creative calculating and factor pairs are suitable only for much older children. Also, while it’s generally pretty easy to figure out where to go next in the story mode, we ran into an issue about two-thirds of the way through the game where we weren’t able to determine what to do next in order to progress. We eventually figured out the problem, but it was far from obvious, and kids may experience similar frustration (tell them to talk to the security guards on Staten Island).

Violence & Scariness

A mini-game involves a pair of cartoony, two-dimensional thunderclouds shooting lightning bolts at each other. It's a bit like Pong, with electricity in place of balls.

Language
Consumerism

This game is a part of an educational media franchise that includes books, games, television series, and films.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Carmen Sandiego: The Lady Liberty Larceny is a short, educational detective adventure only available as a download through the Nintendo Wii Shop. Players employ various math skills in puzzles as they work through a mystery that sees them chatting with a variety of colorful game characters in cities around the world. Parents should also be aware that math problem difficulty fluctuates significantly; and that kids may encounter a frustrating navigational problem near the end of the game that makes it difficult to figure out how to progress. Remind them to return to Staten Island.

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What's it about?

The Statue of Liberty is stolen overnight in CARMEN SANDIEGO ADVENTURES IN MATH: THE LADY LIBERTY LARCENY. Taking on the role of a male or female ACME agent, it’s the player’s job to figure out what happened to her by following orders from headquarters, searching for evidence in cities around the world (including New York, Berlin, and Shanghai), and chatting with any civilians or persons of interest they encounter. Ten different math puzzles related to story events pop up through the course of the game, which lasts about two to three hours. Players can practice all of these puzzles -- which feature randomly generated numbers to increase replay value -- outside of the story mode, and set up multiplayer events in which two players take turns solving similar puzzles as quickly as possible.

Is it any good?

Carmen Sandiego Adventures in Math: The Lady Liberty Larceny is a short and undeniably low budget production. However, the mystery is interesting, the writing is funny, and the math puzzles -- though occasionally unbalanced -- are fun and original. We loved a calculator conundrum that had us attempting to come up with a series of specific numbers using only a couple of digits and operations, but thought that a challenge involving factor pairs was unfairly difficult for the game’s target audience, mostly due to unclear instructions.

Our greatest beef, though, is that we reached an impasse about two thirds of the way through the game. We were told to visit the next city, but no new cities were available on our world map. Only after carefully revisiting every location and talking to every character we'd previously met were we able to find a way to progress and open the next city. This significant speed bump put a damper on what is, otherwise, a fun and affordable little learning game.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about learning in games. Did this game teach you anything you didn’t already know? Did the math problems let you practice skills you already possessed?

  • Families can also discuss fun learning activities outside of video games. Do you play educational board and card games? Have you considered hobbies with an educational bent, such as model-building or zoo clubs?

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