Spelling bee geeks get all the media love nowadays, with ESPN highlights and retro-cool spelling bees for adults at bars, but there are still plenty of geography geeks among us (me included). We are a fierce tribe, ready to take on any challenge to our knowledge of state capitals or which little skinny nation on the west coast of Africa is which.
It's rare that I meet my match in a simple geography test online, but Globetrotter XL is deceptively challenging. The flash game puts a world map (Mercator projection) in front of you and simply asks you to click on the location of a city it gives you. There are 10 rounds, each one requiring greater accuracy on more cities than the last. Every few levels, more geographic borders are removed.
This would be hard enough if the cities were just major metropolitan areas on well-known nations, but Geography XL is merciless from the start, asking you to pinpoint the location of second-tier cities in countries that you probably haven't heard of. Anyone who can get past round 8 is worthy of awe. (You try hitting Kansas City on a borderless map. Who knew it was so far north? And where did those Faroe Islands get to?)
The music is the same generic tracks that get used in many a budget-conscious flash game, but the applause effects for accurate clicking are genuinely thrilling, especially the cheers and hollers for a "strike" when you click on the exact coordinates of a city.
By using a long list of cities in its database, Geography XL also overcomes the scourge of any online geography quiz -- memorizing answers on repeat plays. You might get lucky and be asked the location of that one Norwegian outpost several times in one session, but there's no way to just play the game until you know where every city in the world is. This is also the game's one (minor) weakness: you don't really get better, just luckier with the random cities matching up with your geographic wheelhouse.
The other flaw is if you don't actually like geography quizzes, in which case this "game" will seem a lot more like a nightmare from fifth grade.
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About the reviewer
Chris Magyar (cmagyar)
I'm a freelance journalist and magazine editor who just moved to Austin, Texas from Santa Cruz, California. If anyone wants to hit me up with hidden gems (especially tips on where to eat) in ATX, I'd … more
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