Google’s new adventure game takes a top-down journey through ancient Mesoamerica

In a screenshot from Descent of the Serpent, a character disguised as a wolf stands in a mountainous environment.
I love the cute characters in the game. | Screenshot by Jay Peters/MovieBeat

Google’s Arts & Culture division has released a charming new educational game about ancient Mesoamerica. The game, The Descent of the Serpentis available to play now in your browser or through Google Arts & Culture’s iOS and Android apps.

There’s a slight plot to Descent of the Serpentshown in a short video that plays at the start of the game. While exploring a museum, a large artifact is stolen by Tezcatlipoca, the Lord of the Smoking Mirror, and a living statue asks for your help to retrieve 20 icons included on the artifact to prevent the floods from overrunning the world. Naturally, you agree, and the statue says they’ll send you back in time to ancient Mesoamerica.

You’ll be able to choose from one of four adorable animal “disguises” for your characters, all of which have roots in Mesoamerican culture. I chose Huitzilopochtli, represented by the wolf, but you can also embody Xolotl (the dog), Xbalanque (the jaguar) and Mictlantecuhtli (the owl).

The four playable characters of Google Descent of the Serpent.  A cartoon character is dressed as each animal - a wolf, a dog, a jaguar and an owl.
Screenshot by Jay Peters/MovieBeat
It’s hard to decide which one is the best, but it’s definitely the wolf.

The game, which was made in partnership with Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology, plays much like a simplified top-down view. The Legend of Zelda Title. You’ll roam lush (albeit small) environments to collect missing icons, which appear as gold coins. When you pick up one of the icons, the game presents a bit of history about what it is and directs you to an exhibit on the Google Arts & Culture website if you want to learn more.

While exploring the world in Descent of the Serpent, you’ll also need to dodge simple obstacles like roaming crocodiles and monkeys throwing things at you. On the game’s easiest difficulty, being hit stuns you for a short time. But in “challenge” mode, you’re on a timer and being sent back to the start of the level after taking five hits, so you’ll have to be careful. I’d recommend most people stick with the standard difficulty – I don’t know if this is a game that’s much better at being harder.

Descent of the Serpent is just the latest educational web experiment from Google’s Arts & Culture group, which has already created things like a collaborative puzzle app and the impressive blob opera. And Descent of the Serpent also part of a trend of games being used to teach history, such as Ubisoft’s educational versions of Assassin’s Creed and take two CivilizationEDU.

I’m only halfway there The Descent of the Serpent, but I can very well finish the game by myself very soon. It’s been a fun way to learn more about a culture that I don’t know very well and really want to spend more time with my wolf buddy. After I’m done, I might have to play a game of Google bocce – or make a song with the blob opera.

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