Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Mission US

Mission US

Spring 2014 Website
Ages: 10 - 14 yrs.
Publisher: Thirteen/WNET

Mission US is a free website that provides an interactive way for kids, grades 5-8, to learn U.S. history—first-person and firsthand, almost as if they were there. Encouraged for classroom use but well suited for at-home learning, Mission US integrates historical facts, relevant vocabulary, and an immersion in graphically realistic locales. Think of this as problem-solving past-tense: At critical moments in history, who could you trust? What's the right decision? What should you do?

Each of the three currently available Mission US missions position players in the roles of young people who were in the thick of pivotal historic situations where they have to take a stand, make decisions, make a difference. In the first mission, players assume the role of Nate Wheeler, a 14 year old printer's apprentice in Boston in the year 1770&mdsh;volatile times when colonists were siding with either the "Red Coats" or the "Patriots,"—heading toward the Revolutionary War. Mission 2 takes place in 1848 and the main character is 14-year-old Lucy King, a slave in Kentucky facing daily danger and seeking the path to freedom in Ohio. And in Mission 3, players assume the role of Little Fox, a Cheyenne boy in 1866 experiencing the invasion of railroads onto tribal lands and the mass killings of buffalo—both threatening his tribe's survival.

Game play is slow-paced compared to the frenetic tempo of some of the current, popular video games, but that's not a negative considering the thoughtful process required of players at every step (with different decisions having different consequences). Each mission has multiple chapters that unlock as players exhaust the previous chapter. Graphics and animations are calm and simple—just right for a history lesson. And while the missions contain some violence, true to the story they're telling, none of it is explicit or bloody.

Players must register to be able to play, but the information required is minimal and meets COPPA requirements for minors' online safety—a username, city/state. With new missions planned for release this year and in 2015, Mission US offers students exceptional, individual, interactive history experiences—at just the right price.

Don Oldenburg   ©2014 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

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