Developer: Visuamobile
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆

iPhone Integration Rating: ★½☆☆☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★★☆

Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

IMG_0037There’s no shortage of educational apps in the App Store. From math to foreign language, it seems like the iPhone is perfect for on-the-go learning and refreshers. I was eager to try GeoMaster from Visuamobile (my geography skills are far less than perfect), but while the app nails both graphical shiny-ness and ease of use, it’s just not complete enough for me to recommend.

On the surface, everything seems hunky-dory. GeoMaster has two modes: World Cities and U.S. Cities. Guess what each one tests? When you start the game, you’re presented with either a map of America or one of the world; from there, the game will give you the name of city and either its state or country, depending on the mode. You tap an area of the map to zoom in, and then tap to place your mark. Points are awarded for both speed and accuracy. Earning a certain amount of points earns you an advance to the next level.

It all makes sense so far, right? GeoMaster is certainly easy to pick up. I was treated into an enlightening view of how much I don’t know: East Coast girl that I am, figuring out the locations of the Midwestern states was sometimes a challenge; I have no idea which Californian cities are in the north and which are in the south. My global knowledge wasn’t too hot, either, but the game is forgiving with partial credit.

Now for my gripes.

IMG_0033First and foremost: you’ll noticed that I rated this app 2.5 stars out of 5 in the field of “iPhone Integration.” That’s because if you’re interrupted and exit the app during the game, you lose all progress. If you put your iPod to sleep by tapping that button on top, the app doesn’t exit…but the clock keeps ticking! Also, there’s no way to save your progress to resume later. On another system, this might have been forgivable. On a system like the iPhone, you can’t expect people to keep playing forever and ever. This just shows sloppy implementation.

My next problem is the way the game is structured. It works fine…until you’ve been playing for ages and realize that there is no end in sight. The game requires you to make a guess within ten seconds, but there’s no significant penalty for completely wrong answers. This results in never-ending games with no real reward for going forward.

And, finally, the maps provided. The global map is actually blurry when you zoom in; couldn’t they have provided a higher-resolution image? I often can’t see individual country boundaries when zoomed in on an area where many small nations are clustered. (Europe, I’m looking at you.) Additionally, I wish that there were more modes…or, rather, more useful modes. How about a U.S. mode that just used state capitals, and didn’t give you the states? The current one includes many random cities that I’ve never heard of, and may never hear of again. I’d like to focus on the “basics” first.

Yes, GeoMaster looks shiny. And what it does, it does well enough; I’m looking forward to the promised map updates. The game itself can, at times, become addicting. But for me, it just wasn’t useful, educationally speaking, and the unchanging gameplay grows stale. If they fix some of the problems (for me, the main ones are the blurry world map and the app’s lack of an auto-save or even regular save feature), it could easily become a great geography app. For now, however, I would wait.

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