Developed by Age of Learning Inc., the creators of ABCMouse.com, Adventure Academy is a learning platform that combines learning activities and challenges with the design and gameplay of a Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) Game.
Using 3D avatars of themselves, kids are able to explore a massive online world filled with educational videos, books, puzzles, and games, complete quests and challenges to earn rewards and unlock new content, and even interact with other users in a moderated and safe environment.
A subscription-based service, Adventure Academy has a pretty simple pricing structure.
- $12.99 per month
- $59.99 per year
These prices include access to all the game’s content and updates, as well as access for up to three children, each with their own individual accounts.
Additionally, there are no in-app purchases or ads, which makes it quite appropriate for a children’s educational game.
As a subscription service, however, parents should be aware that it will automatically renew unless they cancel the service before their subscription period ends.
There is a free, 30-day trial if parents want to try before they buy, which we recommend.
Finally, the company occasionally offers discounts and incentives to sign up, so it pays to check out their website for current pricing information.
Adventure Academy claims to be designed for kids 8-13, and we think this is pretty accurate.
The animations are brightly colored and the main world has a modern but cartoon-like 3D animation style that reminds us of Netflix or Disney cartoons aimed at younger kids.
In addition, there is a fair amount of text to be read throughout the game, which could be difficult for users under 8, but the text itself is ultimately clear, straightforward, and simple enough for kids in the Grades 3-7 range.
The lessons themselves (particularly the animated clips) are fun and use a lot of silly humor to get their point across, and we feel that kids 8-13 will find them both familiar and engaging.
Finally, centered on the core subjects of Math, Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies, the educational material, and difficulty are also on par with what you might find at the Elementary to early Middle School levels.
Understandably, some parents might be concerned that a program like Adventure Academy might be too light on learning material, focusing more on providing entertainment rather than education.
Behind its nicely rendered 3D world and entertaining activities, however, Adventure Academy pretty comprehensively covers the core subjects that kids 8-13 need to learn, math, English language arts, science, and social studies.
From our experience and research, Adventure Academy covers a wide variety of topics and learning objectives within these subjects as well.
Just some of the topics we saw covered were:
English Language Arts
|Picking out main ideas, drawing inferences, determining points of view, decoding strategies and phonics, comprehension strategies
|Determining the main idea, sentence/paragraph/essay structure, fluency, creating a logical argument
|Structure, figurative and literal language, spelling, punctuation, parts of speech, tenses
|Whole Number Operations
|Word problems, addition/subtraction, multiplication/division, place value, fluency
|Time, Volume, Perimeter, Area, Angles
|Equivalent fractions, unit fractions, operations with fractions, operations with mixed numbers, factoring, decimal units, operations with decimals
|Life cycles, the human body and basic biology, cells and cell structure
|Environmental science, ecosystems, geology and earth processes, water cycles, climate, and atmospheric science
|Planets, stars, our solar system, celestial bodies, the sun, the moon
|Scientific Thought and Process
|Essential physics, motion, energy, matter, atoms, molecules and the elements, electricity, temperature
|History of science, the scientific process, labs and science instruments
|Social Science and critical thinking
|US geography, world geography, maps and globes,
|Indigenous America, Colonial America, The Revolutionary War, Civil War, World Cultures
|Research skills, determining source credibility, historical inquiry, evaluating context and points of view
While the curriculum and educational topics are quite expansive, Adventure Academy is not itself a complete curriculum.
The game is designed to let kids hone their skills, close knowledge gaps, and practice their skills in a supportive, interactive, and entertaining environment.
That said, we feel the subjects, topics, and learning objectives covered by Adventure Academy are very comprehensive in scope and depth for the age range (Elementary to Middle School) and as such Adventure Academy can be a powerful addition to a student’s learning.
Adjusting Curriculum Difficulty
Much like a video game, the educational material taught by Adventure Academy can be adjusted to a child’s grade level through the game’s difficulty setting:
- Beginner Level
When you set up an account you are asked to set the initial difficulty level.
These levels are skill-based, rather than age or grade based, which is good because it offers a far more tailored learning experience for kids, letting kids fill in skill gaps and develop their knowledge without worry of what they “should” be working on.
To help parents, the game gives some topics and skill examples to give you a better idea of what would be appropriate for your child.
For example, with language arts and reading you may be offered the choice of:
- Beginner – phonics and sight words
- Intermediate – word study and reading strategies
- Advanced– Writing process, word choice, research
While some parents, such as homeschoolers, may be quite familiar with these terms, what they entail and their kids’ particular skill levels, other parents may find this a bit confusing.
One feature we think might have been helpful would be a placement test, which would both help uncertain parents assign the initial difficulty level and allow the game to more easily differentiate by skill rather than grade.
That said, helpfully these settings can be adjusted on the fly. If a child is zipping through the game, the difficulty can be increased to provide more of a challenge, for example.
How Adventure Academy Works
Gameplay & Learning
As a Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) learning environment, the basis of Adventure Academy is its giant open world.
To start off, kids customize their own 3D avatars that they’ll use to explore the game. There is a great deal of customization here, with kids being able to pick their avatar’s hair, face shape, eye color, skin tone, gender, and some clothing and accessories (shirt, pants, shoes) to suit their taste.
Kids can give their avatars a unique nicknames, as well. Unfortunately, there is nothing really stopping kids from using their real names, so parents should get involved here for digital safety reasons.
Using their avatar, kids are then free to explore the world of Adventure Academy, called the Commons. With appropriate sound effects, and seasonally linked weather (snow for winter and falling leaves for fall, for example) it really does look like a digital world built for exploration.
The bulk of learning takes place in The Academy, a sprawling, charmingly designed manor-turned-schoolhouse.
The Academy contains different “wings,” each of which corresponds to a different subject (Science Wing, Math Wing, and so on), and each contains an assortment of displays and other exhibits that players can interact with (as indicated by a lightbulb) to access specific learning content.
Populating this world is a mixture of other users and their avatars, with whom kids can interact and befriend should parental controls allow, and nonplayable characters (called NPCs in gaming lingo), professors, librarians, and custodians.
The game’s NPCs act as an important source of information, game instructions, and tips that help kids navigate this world.
Educational Content and Activities
Users access little stands sprinkled around the wings that provide access to a variety of lessons, activities, games, and puzzles subject areas in those wings.
There are also “learning kiosks” that provide access to all of the game learning content, which is helpful if a student wants to play a particular game or take a refresher lesson.
The game contains thousands of multimedia learning activities that kids can access at different points in the game.
Material is taught through short videos (both cartoons and live-action segments) and books (including read-along books) and kids test their skills through puzzles, games, and quizzes.
The educational content itself was developed in consultation with a variety of educational nonprofits, such as the National Geographic Society, the Next Generation Science Standards, and the National Council for the Teachers of Mathematics, and is of excellent quality.
In fact, within Adventure Academy, kids won’t just discover content created by Age of Discovery. For example, they will also find popular books by famous authors (Acoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band by Kwame Alexander and A Pet for Miss Wright by Judy Young were notably popular with our crowd), as well as videos and cartoons that seem like they belong on Netflix and not a video game.
Quests and Challenges
The game’s challenges and quests are really the heart of the game’s learning.
Just like a video game, kids can earn coins to buy in-game items and can gain experience points (XP) to level up and access new game content.
To do so, kids have to earn it by completing the game’s quests. This is essentially how the game encourages kids to interact with educational content.
Quests typically involve the user being sent to different areas to complete a series of interlinked tasks.
There is a great deal of variation in the types of tasks that users may be asked to complete in a quest. Some are purely educational, such as asking them to watch short educational videos on subjects, a digital book or complete a puzzle or interactive quiz.
Others are designed to be fun and increase kids’ engagement and interest and prevent them from becoming bored. For example, one quest had us going fishing for crustaceans and controlling the rod with a little power indicator, which very much reminded us of Nintendo’s Link.
This blending together of education-oriented tasks (math quizzes, geography puzzles, drag-and-drop sentence structure completion, and so on) with more traditional and familiar video game tasks (locating and gathering important items, exploring certain areas, and so on) was something we really appreciated.
Combined with the open and explorative nature of the game, we felt that it really keeps the game feeling casual and fun, preventing kids from feeling “taught to” by the game.
At no time, for example, did our testers feel that they were being drilled or overtly lectured to by the game, despite actually being introduced and quizzed on different facts and concepts.
For those of us with impatient youngsters, we also liked how Adventure Academy prevents kids from skipping through the educational content as a shortcut to the fun.
Kids can’t level up without completing the quests, which means watching educational videos and completing subject-related activities.
Similarly, they also can’t simply rush through videos or flip through pages of a book. If they want those experience points they’ll have to actually pay attention, especially as some of the videos are interactive and require a user response.
In video games, rewards and similar incentives are often used to boost motivation and keep users playing. After all, who doesn’t like to be rewarded for their hard work with something that reflects their accomplishments?
Adventure Academy has quite an expansive system of rewards and incentives that we feel are really fun and keep kids wanting to succeed.
Experience and Leveling Up
As we mentioned earlier, as students complete quests and challenges they earn experience points. Much like a video game, a certain amount of points results in the player going up a level and gives them new abilities (more ways to customize their character) as well as unlocking new areas on the map, which gives them access to new quests, games, and content to explore.
For example, in addition to the main Academy and Commons, as a user progresses in experience, they unlock places like a Marketplace (to buy items), a Stylist (to change the avatar’s appearance), a place to craft and modify items, a newspaper office, a neighborhood filled with houses for avatars to “live in,” and even a pier with a boardwalk full of games.
The familiarity of this system with other games makes it immediately understandable to even younger kids and, interestingly, we found it to be motivating on its own as our kids simply wanted to see how far they could level up their character, much as they do with their regular video games.
There is a maximum level to a character (30 or so), which essentially marks the end of the game (although kids can continue exploring and join an honor society).
One thing that we found a little odd is that the number of new quests seemed to slow down as our characters approached the highest levels of the game, which is sort of the opposite of what you might expect.
Coins and rewards
As with other gamified educational games, as they use Adventure Academy kids also earn coins for completing tasks and playing the game. These coins can be used to purchase in-app items that they can use such as new clothing, accessories, pets, and even their own house to keep their stuff and decorate as they wish.
Contests and Leaderboards
Interestingly, from time-to-time new challenges and contests pop up to engage the wider Adventure Academy community. These are often announced in-game and on social media and encourage all players to participate in order to win some rewards.
These are kind of fun and the results are published in-game, shoutouts that can really get kids excited in our experience.
Clubs and Clubhouses
At a certain level and with a certain amount of coins, users are invited to create their own club (complete with clubhouse) and invite friends to join.
These clubs can be named and customized with a custom flag, come with their own little quests, and we think can provide a nice social motivator to keep playing.
Being such an open and immersive environment, a big concern for parents is that kids will be distracted and simply wander around exploring.
As discussed above, the inbuilt mechanics of the game do go a long way in keeping kids working on challenges and quests. However, one should never underestimate the distractibility of a child
Helpfully, Adventure Academy includes a progress tracker that parents can use to keep things on track.
The tracking features are fairly typical of these types of programs, letting parents keep track of how long kids are spending on the program, activities completed, subjects covered, and so on.
One thing we would have liked to see would be a feature to track the responses of kids to the various quizzes, puzzles, and challenges so that parents can get a better sense of where their kids are struggling and where they are stronger.
Usability, Look and Feel
Overall, everything about Adventure Academy feels like something out of a mainstream video game and not an educational learning platform.
The main world is smoothly animated with lots of high-quality and thoroughly modern 2D and 3D clips and animations.
It’s very clear that a good deal of thought has gone into design quality, and to us, the result has the high production values of a Disney or Nickelodeon production rather than an educational game.
There is very little chance of kids getting lost (and frustrated) as non-playable characters periodically offer instructions on where to go and what to do next and golden footsteps appear on the ground to create a pretty straightforward guide from task to task.
In the worst case, the learning kiosks in the Academy section provide easy, complete and centralized access to the learning material.
Adventure Academy’s sophisticated graphics and immersive environment means that the hardware requirements will be a little steeper than other learning platforms out there – Adventure Academy requires more modern devices to run smoothly.
While older systems may be capable of running it, users report suffering from choppiness, buffering, slowness, long loading times, and even crashes due to the graphic demands of the program, so make sure you check the company’s system requirements before signing up.
These system requirements may become an issue for some households who are used to letting their kids’ study on hand-me-down, older devices, and don’t have as many newer devices to go around.
Immersive Games and Learning: What does the Research Say?
While still a relatively new tool, the research seems to indicate that immersive virtual worlds seem to stimulate interest and engagement with learning material, improving overall attitudes to learning and often reaching higher levels of active listening and information recall than traditional learning alone.
Generally speaking, however, it’s thought that there are three main factors in creating effective educational games:
Learning Integration – learning and play must be well balanced and work together to create better learning outcomes, in other words, to move forwards in the game kids must actually learn certain material and demonstrate that knowledge
Motivation – the games must be something kids want to play, being interesting and entertaining to the kids by themselves and not feel like another drill program
Focus– The gameplay itself can’t be so distracting that it detracts from learning
So how does Adventure Academy compare with the research?
Learning Integration – 9.5/10
In terms of learning integration, Adventure Academy does an extremely good job.
With Adventure Academy, learning and play are deeply and intrinsically interwoven. Simply put, users actually have to watch the videos, read the books, and complete the challenges in order to earn the coins and points they need to advance.
Similarly, as we mentioned previously, the game quests themselves often alternate between demanding kids complete purely educational activities and fun, game-like activities.
This ultimately helps the game strike a balance between entertaining and educational.
Motivation – 10/10
With a rich, open, and explorable 3D world, customizable avatars, entertaining videos, and puzzles, and a ton of game-like features such as leveling up, unlockable content, and redeemable virtual rewards, there’s a lot in Adventure Academy to keep kids immersed and, importantly, wanting to play and explore the next challenge.
Overall, the program really does feel like a fairly high-quality game rather than a thinly disguised educational program, as many other programs in this genre do.
Our testers simply wanted to keep playing, and this seems to be the common feeling among other user reviews online as well.
Focus – 9/10
Adventure Academy has several features that can help keep kids focused on learning.
For one thing, the game doesn’t really let kids skip through the educational material. There’s no zipping to the end of videos or clicking through reading material to get to the good stuff.
For another, in order to earn rewards and level up and explore new maps, they need to complete educational challenges and assignments and earn XP.
With all that said, it is an open and immersive environment and some kids may end up being easily distracted by its features. Parents, however, can always keep an eye on things and get things back on track through the built-in progress-tracking features.
Adventure Academy is kidSAFE & COPPA Certified
|Profanity and Abuse Filters
|24/7 Community Moderation
|Flexible Parental Controls
|Online Identity Protection
Obviously, with any online game or program that allows interaction between users, as parents we want to make sure that our kids are as safe as possible from cyberbullying, harassment, and trolling.
Adventure Academy has implemented a number of features that we think do a pretty good job at keeping kids safe while using the program.
In Game Chat
Part of Adventure Academy’s appeal to kids is in its social aspect. You can chat with other kids and even get friend requests from other players (which are optional, obviously).
This, of course, can be concerning to parents due to the potential for bullying and harassment.
To their credit, Adventure Academy has taken measures to make the experience quite safe. Automated filters prevent sensitive information from being shared (addresses, phone numbers, social media info), there is a “report user” function, and they have a team of moderators who are always present to watch over the users and ban those that violate the game’s rules for behavior.
Additionally, there are fairly strict limits to how kids can find each other through the friend’s function – each user can only be found through a unique ID code rather than a name. While this makes finding and meeting up with friends a little more cumbersome, it does go a long way in preventing strangers or trolls from targeting individual children.
The company also has provided parents that give them control over how much interaction their kids can have with other users. Parents can enable full chat, activate quick chat (which has standard, pre-selected messages and emojis to choose from), or disable chat altogether.
Because this is not just a simple on/off switch, which you might find in competing games, this system is actually quite flexible and can actually suit parents with a wide variety of online comfort levels for their kids, which is pretty thoughtful in today’s world.
Is Adventure Academy worth the money?
Ultimately, if you’re looking for an entertaining educational supplement for your 8-13-year-old, we think Adventure Academy is well worth the money.
For $12.99 per month, on price alone, it’s not so different from other streaming game services that you might find out there.
In terms of educational value, you do get a lot for your money.
Adventure Academy covers a broad range of curricula: math, reading, language arts, science, and social studies.
To teach these subjects, the game employs thousands of educational videos, books, puzzles, games and other activities for users to enjoy, all within a well-designed, rich and gamified virtual learning environment.
And to be fair there are simply very few educational games out there that have this caliber and quality of play and animation. The 3D animations are modern and well-made, and even the 2D animations in videos and lessons feel like something straight out of the Disney channel.
Beyond its value as a game, Adventure Academy is also a social learning platform, with kids being able to chat and make virtual friends in a carefully moderated and controlled kidSAFE & COPPA-certified environment that can be further restricted by parents themselves.
With support for up to 3 kids on each account, the game is of excellent value to larger families, homeschoolers, and microschoolers alike. Interestingly, all three of those accounts can be active at the same time, which should cut down quite a bit on fighting over the game.
On the downside, it is a subscription service so parents should be aware that it will automatically renew at the end of their subscription period should they forget to manually cancel.