Children's Ministry, Resources

My Honest Review of the New Children’s Game Greatest Journey by Samaritan’s Purse

The Opportunity

I recently had the opportunity to review a new game by the non-profit Samaritan’s Purse. You may be familiar with them as the folks behind the huge annual drive to collect and distribute shoeboxes full of goodies to children in need around the world (although a quick look at their website shows that they do far more than distribute Christmas goodies). This time, they created an interactive game, Greatest Journey, for kids that shares the Gospel in a clear, interactive and fun way.

Your team’s ship, the U.S.S. Emmanuel.

My Perspective

I am not a gamer. Although I do feel compelled to mention that I did make it to the Nintendo World Championship Semi-Finals once upon a time about 30 years ago (be impressed, kids). Thirty years ago is also about the last time I played video games on a regular basis.

Nowadays, I am more into doing a crossword puzzle, reading a nice book or cracking open a board game. I know, I know, my 11-year-old self would be disappointed, but alas, ‘tis true. This review, therefore, will not be from a technical, gaming viewpoint, although I do have a few small, uneducated thoughts on that topic.

My main perspectives while reviewing this game come from being a mother to 4 kids ages (almost) 13 to (almost) 5 and from being on staff at our church as the Minister to Children since 2003.

The player is the captain (middle front). There are five other team members and a droid.

The Game

In this game, you are the captain of a team of six space/time travelers journeying to key moments in time that help explain the story of the Gospel and other events that are recorded in the Bible. The Admiral (an animated Operation Christmas Child Box) guides the team via video to understand the places, people and events the team is experiencing. You also have a droid named Elon on your team to help you see things in places you can’t physically explore.

The Character Select Screen (Note, I had to make a second account for myself, because my daughter high-jacked my first one.

The team has 12 missions that they need to accomplish throughout the game. During each mission, there are different interactive things you will need to do to move the game along from tapping a button on the screen, to dragging an object across the screen, to moving your “camera” to take video of certain targets on the screen. 

You can earn “pips” (points) for doing things in the game and use those pips to purchase things at the “pip exchange,” such as a new hairstyle or backpack. There is also a “seek and find” part of the game in which you look for and click on certain objects for extra pips in each mission.  At the beginning and end of each mission, you are teleported to and from your ship.  Each mission takes around 5 to 10 minutes to complete.

The Missions

The Missions surround key events that are recorded in the Bible and they are as follows:

Mission 1: Creation

Mission 2: Sin Enters the World

Mission 3: Jesus, the Messiah is born in Bethlehem

Mission 4: Jesus blessing the Children, telling that the Kingdom of God belongs to those like children

Mission 5: Following Jesus, featuring when Jesus called Peter and Andrew and James and John to follow Him, the boy who gave the bread and fish to Jesus (feeding of the 5,000), the widow giving her mite.

Adam and Eve after getting booted out of the Garden of Eden.

Mission 6: The Trial, Crucifixion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus

Mission 7: The Man who was paralyzed and whose friends carried him on a mat to Jesus to be healed.

Mission 8: Mary and Martha

Mission 9: David and Goliath

Mission 10: Heaven

Mission 11: The Good Samaritan

Mission 12: The disciples preach in the Temple, stand before the Sanhedrin

Jesus with one of the children He blessed.

What you’ll Need to Play

You can find this game for free on the Play Store and the App Store.  Android users will need an Android OS 8.0 (Oreo) or higher. Apple users will need 1OS 11.4 or later. It is recommended that you download the app while connected to WiFi for maximum efficiency.

The Bad

In my opinion, there is not much bad in this game. Overall, I would recommend it to anyone with kids, but there were a few little things. So, let’s just get it over with. After all, nothing’s perfect this side of Heaven, so here goes…

* The graphics were a bit “wonky” at times. I enjoyed the art of the game in general, but the characters’ eyeballs sometimes appear through their eyelids, mouths moved a bit strangely when talking and when the characters walked they did so in an awkward manner. That said, this is a not for profit game (they are NOT charging for it) by a not for profit organization, so you can’t really compare it to a company who only produces games and has a much higher budget. I think these problems are easily forgiven when put into that context.

The “away team” after arriving in one of their missions.

*My almost 13-year-old son’s main complaint was that the game was “laggy”. The operating system on his phone is within the requirements they recommend (he has an Android 9.0), but he said he didn’t finish the game because there was so much lag time. However, it is worth noting that I have the same exact operating system on my phone and I had no problems whatsoever. Perhaps the speed of the game just wasn’t what he is used to playing.

*As a very minor point for me and a bit bigger one for my son, the captain’s (the player’s character’s) voice is a wee bit too much on the high pitched side for our liking. (Side note: I am reluctant to even write this, in case this is someone’s real voice. I am sorry if it is. Not because that’s your voice, but because I really don’t want to criticize someone’s actual voice. 🙁 )

*Another thing I noticed that in Mission 7 the dialogue says several times that there were 2 friends who took the man who was paralyzed to Jesus. This miracle is recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke and although Matthew and Luke say that there were “some” men, Mark says there were four men carrying the man who was paralyzed. This seems to be a simple mistake in the number of men by the game manufacturers, but it was made more than once and I am not sure why they would change the number of men. Other than this instance, though, I didn’t notice anything I thought was Biblically inaccurate or incorrect. I found the game to be very respectful to the integrity of the Bible, so maybe there is a reason for the number of men being two that I do not know about?

*As you probably noticed, the Bible missions are not in chronological order and I am not sure why, except that missions 1, 2, 3 and 6 are what starts and completes the telling of the Gospel story. Maybe they wanted to put all of those into the first half of the game, in case some kids didn’t finish the game? Or maybe they just wanted to play around more with the time travel aspect of the game. I am not sure. I personally like chronological order (and symmetry, but that’s a story for another day), but maybe it wouldn’t bother another person.

*There are only 12 missions. I would love to see more missions added later on so kids can continue learning about the Bible in such a fun and interactive way.

The Admiral

The Good

There is far more good in this game than bad, so buckle in, folks…

*The game was entertaining. My kids all enjoyed it. My seven year old loved it and begged to play it. In fact, this review would have been done a week ago if I wasn’t waiting for her to finish playing the game so I could check it out myself.

*The missions have a great mix of learning about the events, people and places that are highlighted and bits of activity for the kids to do. It does a great job of keeping them engaged throughout the mission.

Doing a scan of the location.

*Although there is a lot of interaction, the game is not dependent upon the kids succeeding at the activities. If they (or their mom, perhaps) miss something or get something wrong the game simply continues. They do not lose at this game, which is nice.

*Each mission ends with a recap, which clarifies what the kids experienced on their mission and the point of each thing they experienced. They also provide an application for the kids, which was really nice.

*There are highlights of each of the main people. A button appears on the screen and when the player pushes it the name and some basic information appears for each person.

*It was easy to use (even for me-ha ha!). Of course, I wasn’t surprised that my kids figured it out so quickly, but ya never know when you mix grown-up folks and new-fangled technology. However, I figured it out and only had to ask my kids for help once (I consider that a success!).

*There is humor scattered throughout the game: some more subtle humor parents might catch while their kids are playing, cheesy puns and other things woven in the story. My favorite was David using his pet sheep’s fluffy wool as a sort of suitcase to store the items he was bringing to his brothers. He’s walking along with his sheep, gets to where hs is going, reaches in and grabs a bag of cheese as if people use their sheep for suitcases all the time. Ha ha!

David unpacking his “suitcase.”

*It satisfied a difficult (in my opinion) demographic. My almost teenage son, who unlike his mom, would very much consider himself a gamer enjoyed playing the game. He thought it was fun. He enjoyed the activities and the Bible accounts. He said it kept him interested in what he was learning and he learned something new (he hadn’t realized Adam and Eve were originally naked-ha ha!). In my experience, preteen boys are hard group to impress with church activities/lessons/music, so if something interests and engages them, it will likely interest most of the other kids as well.

*There is a “Starlog” for each mission you complete and after you complete each one, you can “read the Starlog”, which is the actual Scripture recording the event in the Bible. Some of the dialogue from each event comes directly from the scripture, but there is some creative license taken, as would be expected.  However, just a click of a button will take you to the passage in Scripture so you can read the event from the Bible Word for God Inspired Word for yourself. I like that feature quite a bit. They use the New International Reader’s Version of the Bible.

When you click on one of the chapters (missions), you can then read the Starlog (the Bible passage) or travel to the mission and experience that part of the game over again.
What you’ll see when you click on the “Starlog,” the Scripture associated with that mission.

*Once you complete a mission, you can travel back to it whenever you’d like. Kids can experience the missions over and over again.

*Once you complete all 12 missions, you get a certificate of graduation and you get access through the game to the entire Bible, along with the encouragement to read it every day and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to You through God’s Word.

Throughout the game the bottom right option reads “journey,” but upon completion of all 12 missions, it changes to Bible and the player gets the ultimate reward- a copy of God’s Word.

*The store where you can buy things is fun and you can update your teams’ look by buying uniforms in different colors and patterns. You can buy a new hairstyle or backpack and even buy a new look for your droid. My son said the store was his favorite part of the game.

Spending pips on a new “do.

*The game is very generous with its “pips” (points). Even a somewhat bad player (I have some experience here) can rack up quite a few of them. Most games give you some points, but sort of leave you scrounging for things. I was able to “splurge” at the store pretty freely and I didn’t even find my first “hide and seek” item until mission 10 (told ya I was bad!)! A better player would have the potential for a lot more points and a lot more shopping at the store, but even a bad player gets a very generous amount, which is just a really fun addition to any game.

You get a lot of pips and can have several spending sprees, even spurging to dress up your droid (more than once, if desired).

And my favorite part…

*There is an absolutely crystal clear explanation of the Gospel. It is completely unadulterated. This game is very clear that we have all sinned and that sin separates us from God and that Jesus paid the price for us on the cross so that we can have our sins forgiven if we accept Him as Lord and Savior.

When it has become common for so many to water down the Gospel message and do everything not to mention the “s” word (sin!) or the “h” word (hell), this app simply does not do that. They tell the truth in a thoughtful, sensitive and, even, in a compelling way.  The purpose of this game becomes clear very quickly as you’re playing and that purpose remains prevalent throughout the game. That was so amazingly refreshing to me!

The only time (I believe) in the game in which the space/time traveler kids are allowed to interact with anyone in the mission is during the blessing of the children. That was kind of a nice touch. Jesus is available for everyone if they so choose.

*It does share the Gospel and I love that, but it is also discipling in nature for kids who already know Jesus as Lord and Savior. It does a good job of helping the characters in the game apply the lessons learned in their missions and ultimately from the Scriptures to their own lives.

The kids in the game also have various struggles they share with one another throughout the game to put a modern application to the things they are experiencing. The real kids playing the game are bound to pick up on the lessons learned and relate them to the struggles in their own lives as well.

One of the activities you get to do-put Saul’s armor on David.

The Kids’ Reviews

My almost 5-year-old enjoyed playing it. As mentioned earlier, there is no losing in this game and I especially liked that aspect when she was playing, because she may not have the skills necessary to propel her further in the game had that not been the case.

My seven-year-old absolutely loved it. She has played it over and over again and said she learned a lot about the Bible and about God and loved that she got to be the captain in the game.

My almost 12-year-old thought it was a good game. She liked that it was the Bible story, but instead of just reading it, you could actually do it. She liked the various activities scattered throughout the missions.

In his words, my almost 13-year-old gave it a 3.5 out of 5. He subtracted a point for what he said was “lagginess” and a half a point for the high pitched voice. Still, he enjoyed playing it and said there were lots of parts of the game that were “awesome.”

Outside the empty tomb.

Final Thoughts

As a mom and as a Children’s Minister I would absolutely recommend this game. It has all the things you want in a game for your kids as a Christian parent/educator. It is a great way to allow the children in your life to be exposed to the Bible and to the Gospel message.

The game stands alone, of course, but I can also see it being part of a lesson either at home or at church. For example: play the game, read the Scripture and add a memory verse, game and or craft and it could be a complete lesson any kid would love.

It’s a good game and a free app, therefore, I can’t think of a single reason why you shouldn’t give it a try. So, I leave you with the words of the Admiral, “Your mission is to observe, record and experience.” Observe, record and experience the events that happened in the Bible and learn about them and the people who were involved in those events. So, what are you waiting for? Accept the challenge and see what you and your kids can learn about God’s amazing Word and about God Himself by playing Greatest Journey for yourselves.

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