It’s another week and another Successfully Learning title from edutainment specialists Tivola. This relentless schedule of language learning titles on DSiWare continues with Successfully Learning German: Year 3. Young German speakers are once again led to the classroom by the smiling and freckled vampire mascot, promising a unique combination of fun and learning at the same time.
Details about how this title works can be found in any of our previous DSiWare Successfully Learning reviews, simply because the template and format remains unchanged from previous entries. Performing well in exercises earns gold stars, which are then converted into play time in the bonus game. This method of work and reward is a solid principle to follow in edutainment, so that young students at least get a sense that fun is on the way; it’s a basic setup, but functions well enough.
This simplicity continues with the user interface, which will be immediately familiar to those who’ve played previous entries in the series. Completing all navigation and interactions with the stylus ensures that the experience is always intuitive. The number of questions has increased over the previous entry in this German series, with around 600 questions in total; a significant amount of content. As with the Year 2 entry, these exercises will only make sense to German speakers, improving children’s language skills and fluency. If you want to learn German from scratch, this series of downloads isn’t for you.
For young pupils fluent in the language, there are clearly benefits and useful exercises in this title. Rather than basic categories testing whether the student is familiar with particular words and phrases, the exercises are designed to ensure that the actual structure of the language is understood. Categories such as ‘common word stems’ and the rather wordy ‘punctuation marks are at the end’, all approach different areas that will help with the construction and structural understanding of the language. There is also a noticeable step up in difficulty, adding to the sense of learning progression from Year 2.
Overall, the questions are well thought out and suitable for the target audience, though we did notice a couple of mis-steps. There is an instance where you are asked to identify words within a group that do not match the others, but it is unclear which group of words is ‘correct’. A more general problem occurs with questions where you need to type a word spoken in a voice sample; the audio quality is below par, sometimes making it difficult to hear the word clearly. These issues aren’t major nor do they occur frequently, but they may cause a few mistakes that the pupil wouldn’t otherwise make.
A lot of pupils who work through the exercises may do so with one objective in mind; get to the bonus game. The idea of edutainment is only sustainable if the play time on offer is enticing, and like this title’s predecessor the game on offer is reasonably good. It is a puzzle title once again, in which you need to match three identical tiles over a specific area of a grid. There are tiles of different colours, and you can place newly assigned tiles on any row or column in the square by simply dragging and tapping the stylus. It is not just a case of matching three identical tiles and they disappear, you need to also ensure that the tiles disappear over a matching symbol on the grid. It is by removing these symbols within a strict time limit that you progress. Each subsequent level adds more variety in tiles, more difficult layouts and even tighter time restrictions.
Interestingly, only seven levels are available at first, with the remaining 21 only accessible when you unlock Bronze, silver and gold crowns through gold star collection. Not only is this a decent puzzle game that requires strategy and concentration, but there are plenty of levels only available through achievement in the exercises, so pupils are working towards new levels, as well as game time.
In terms of the overall presentation of this title, it's clear that the individual titles in this series formed one single retail release, as they all follow the same template and presentation. With that in mind, it's understandable that this title looks the same as the German and English variants that have come before, but doesn’t change the fact that the presentation is bland, unexciting and lacking in creativity. Freddy’s only role is to smile and look dapper in his outfit, particularly during the bonus game, but doesn’t interact with the player in any way; a disappointing performance from the mascot. In terms of the sound, and as mentioned earlier in the review, some of the vocals can be quite difficult to understand, which leads to problems is some exercises.
Successfully Learning German: Year 3 continues the positive form shown by its predecessor. The Bonus Game is challenging and full of content, while the exercises themselves are, mostly, well constructed and conducive to positive learning. The presentation is, once again, the biggest let down; there is little about the visual package to entice young children. With a couple of minor issues in exercises and low quality audio samples, it is clear that this is a title that does pass the test, but not with flying colours.