Father and Son has been billed as, and technically is, the first mobile game developed and published through an archaeological museum. However, to call it a game might be a bit of a stretch. Father and Son might be better described as a rich interactive digital storybook with some game-like elements. Produced by the National Archeological Museum of Naples and available now for both iOS and Android in English and Italian, Father and Son tells the story of a son (Michael) trying to understand the late father he never knew through the work he left behind.
The father, Frederico, an archaeologist at the National Archeological Museum of Naples, was responsible for creating exhibitions on the final hours of Pompeii before it was destroyed by the volcano, 18th century Naples, and daily life in Ancient Egypt. Exploring the exhibitions transports you not just into the historical past, but also into the son’s past as you learn more about the connection between different eras.
Father and Son’s graphics are everything you would expect from a museum-developed game. The illustrations are gallery quality. More important, they are also historically accurate. While relatively low-res, the detailing reflects our best understanding of the architecture of the period (someone clearly made the most of the museum’s research resources).
However, there does seem to be a display issue with text areas that really hampers the experience, at least on iPad. The text boxes display larger than the screen meaning words are cut off on one or both sides. It can then take some real guesswork to figure out what’s being said as the text is critical to the story and the game experience. This is a real challenge for a native English speaker and might be impossible for anyone who’s not totally fluent in the language. Hopefully, this is something that can be tweaked for the next update of the App.
If you’re an explorer and a real history buff, you’ll probably enjoy the gameplay which has you moving through different time periods and settings trying to figure out on your own how things work and fit together. If you aren’t you’ll probably find the Father and Son’s lack of instruction and lack of pacing exasperating. While there isn’t much to do in the game (there’s only three missions or challenges, none of which are difficult), the walking between sites can require the patience of a saint. It’s a divisive experience that will enchant some while underwhelming others.
While the missions may leave much to be desired, the story is intriguing as are the options that you’re given in terms of responses when interacting with other characters. Invited to put yourself in the shoes of a bereaved son trying to make sense of the world inhabited by a father who, due to his intense commitment to his archeological work, he never really knew, many responses (especially in the beginning) are infused with all the resentment, anger and pain you’d expect. He may not always interact with those in his environment graciously, but you can at least understand where he’s coming from and so to can those to whom he’s curt. There is empathy built into the game in a way that differentiates it from other games or interactive experiences.
He may not always interact with those in his environment graciously, but you can at least understand where he’s coming from and so to can those to whom he’s curt. There is empathy built into the game in a way that differentiates it from other games or interactive experiences.
In sum, if you’re looking for a real adventure game, Father and Son will not meet your needs. But, if you have an hour to spare to enjoy a different type of interactive experience and learn a little about the lives of those who inhabited Ancient Egypt, Pompeii, and Naples in the 1700s you’ll be richly rewarded.