iPod App Reviews: NASA Lunar Electric Rover Simulator

While not an entirely new concept, we here at the OWC Blog thought it would be both informative and entertaining to do a group review of an App Store app each week. Our reasoning sits somewhere in between, “Hey, the iPhone is insanely popular, so people may be interested” and “Oooh. We get to play games at work!”

Whatever our reasoning, we all agreed it was a great idea to do a “Yea or Nay” theme on these each week. As all of us at least own an iPod Touch, we have narrowed the options down to two main requirements:

  1. The application being reviewed must function as easily and as well with a first generation iPod Touch as it would with an iPhone 3GS.
  2. The apps reviewed must be free…that way everyone can try it and benefit from it.

With that in mind, we chose our first app to review: The NASA Lunar Electric Rover Simulator.

App’s Description

Welcome to the NASA Lunar Electric Rover (LER) Simulator. You don’t need a driver’s license, but you still need to buckle up as the LER Simulator gives you a glimpse of what it might be like to support the activities of a functioning Lunar Outpost. Get busy. You never know if your skills here will become a major part of the NASA Astronaut application process in the future.

OWC Chris’s Review

In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I am not a huge fan of “edutainment”-type apps. All too often, the “entertainment” part often takes a second (or third or fourth) seat to other things. Unfortunately, as most kids seem to instinctively know, no matter how many birthday candles you put on it, liver is never going to taste like chocolate cake.

Such is the problem with this game. The controls are elementary, at best: left right, forward and back.  The game is pretty much “navigate to the next appropriate area” where you are given irrelevant information (I’ll touch more on this in a moment), then move to the next. Once you’ve visited all of the areas, you unlock “arcade mode” which seems to lets you roam over the area you’ve visited, but without anything else.

Whoop-dee-frickin’-doodle.

Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed in this app. First of all, for an “edutainment” title, it isn’t particularly informational. Most, if not all, of the items listed are part of the recently-cancelled Constellation program, so any information you may be getting is now invalid. Combine that with mediocre gameplay, and this is a big “skip” in my book.

If you want a NASA app, get the actual “NASA App.” At least the information is accurate and it doesn’t make the embarrassing mistake of attempting to be a game at the same time.

OWC Michael’s Review

I was excited to download and try this app for our first weekly review.  It had everything on paper we were looking for.  First off, it was free.  Who doesn’t like free stuff?  Second, it was a game (of sorts) and who doesn’t like getting away with playing games and calling it “work”? Unlike my esteemed colleague, OWC Chris, I happen to like the edutainment genre. I’m a sucker for interactive museum attractions and the like. And lastly, the app is outer space related. How perfect for an Other World-ly review.

However, the game portion took only a few short minutes to complete.  I ran into a few obstacles in my first run of the game while getting used to the controls and ended up not having enough power to complete all seven checkpoints within my allotted power.  I’m notoriously bad at most driving games in general but I even got the hang of this one by the second try and fifteen minutes later I couldn’t find anything new to do or read or learn. Especially since much of the information pertains to the no longer funded Constellation Program.

Oh well, at least the price was right.

OWC Grant’s Review

I sat down with “honorary” OWC bloggers…Morgan and Logan…(my daughter and son) to get their take on this app. They dig just about every free game we find (esp those with monkeys for some reason) and they were very excited to hear about this one. Being the big dog, I got first dibs on the maiden voyager while their 8 and 10 year old heads pressed in from both sides to catch the action. Despite a lack of personal space, we checked out some of the Learn content first to get a bit of education value in before actually playing the game. There was some great explanations of the various NASA equipment and gear and I noted that NASA and OWC could go head to head with long product names…their ATHLETE Rover actually stands for All-Terrain Hex-Legged Extra-Terrestrial Explorer…I noted that was almost as long as OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro mini Storage Solution…aka OMEAPMSS…and if that means something in martian or a noise that the ATHLETE rover makes, very cool tie in. The kids enjoyed repeating that new OWC acronym as “Oh Meap Miss” over and over until well…DAD had to stop it.

Back to the action…you have right and left turn controls and forward and back. That’s it. No speed increase, turbo boost, etc. And once you figure you are the red dot on the “global” view and you are supposed to visit the flashing yellow dot – which happens to be another NASA device – it’s an OK game and reminds one of the interactive “games” at museums and attractions. The kids liked it because they learned a little bit and was basically easy to immediately use. As such, because it’s free and for the educational value for the kids, I’d give it a Yea. IF it was just for me, I’d take a bouncing monkey game over it any day.

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