Who says learning about history has to be boring? Google’s Art & Culture division is here to inject some fun into the genre with its newest education game about ancient Mesoamerica. Titled The Descent of the Serpent, it can be played directly on the browser or via the Google Arts & Culture iOS and Android apps right now — and for free, to boot.
Taking on the top-down approach of retro games, it bears similarities to the Legend of Zelda series of games. The adventure begins with a short video, which reveals a light plot to the game. While exploring a museum, a large artifact is stolen by Tezcatlipoca, the Lord of the Smoking Mirror, and you are tasked by a living status to recover 20 icons included on the artifact to prevent floods from taking over the world. Being the player character, you naturally agree to the quest, and will find yourself being sent back in time to ancient Mesoamerica.
There are four extremely adorable designs to choose from: the Huitzilopochtli, represented by the wolf, Xolotl (the dog), Xbalanque (the jaguar), and Mictlantecuhtli (the owl). All of them have roots in Mesoamerican culture, and it can be pretty difficult to pick the best companion (we chose the Huitzilopochtli, though).
Made in partnership with Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology, Descent of the Serpent sees you roaming though a lush jungle to collect the missing icons, which takes the form of gold coins. Once they are picked up, the game will present a bite-sized facts about their historical significance, and direct you to an exhibit on the Google Arts & Culture website for interested parties.
But embarking on a quest is never so straightforward. As you seek to recover the icons, several obstacles will also be in your way, so you’ll have to avoid roaming crocodiles or dodge thrown projectiles by monkeys. These are simple threats that will stun you if you get hit, but on the “challenge” mode, there will be a timer and a five-hit limit, which then sends you back to the beginning of the level.
It’s all pretty cool, and makes for a very interesting learning trip for those who are not familiar with the Mesoamerican culture. Descent of the Serpent is not the first gamified browser experience that the Google has worked on. Prior to this, there was also a similar Google Doodle adventure, which allowed players to live their Olympic dreams in retro 16-bit glory. For the Arts & Culture group, who has already made educational projects like a collaborative jigsaw puzzle app, this charming title undeniably falls under its expertise.