Lola's Alphabet Train is both a learning tool and a game, but it's quite clearly more the former than the latter. This isn't a bad thing at all, but it's important to know that when setting your expectations.
Lola is a chirpy panda bear who, aboard her titular train, presents children with a series of spelling and vocabulary based challenges. These challenges fall into many different categories. For instance, you might simply have to identify a letter, arrange several letters to spell a short word, or tap an object that begins with the letter in question.
It's a varied enough experience that children can learn from it in many different ways, and it's difficult to find fault with what is, overall, a very strong package.
Each time your child answers a question — it's worth noting that the game will wait for a correct answer, and does not punish incorrect ones — Lola's train will advance. Answer enough questions and the train will pass a toy store, allowing your child to drag one of its items off the shelf and place it on the train. It's a fun idea, and children will enjoy choosing the reward and accumulating, eventually, a train full of the toys they like best.
That’s all there is to the gameplay. Everything is controlled by the touch screen, which makes arranging letters and selecting objects a pretty intuitive process. A clear, soothing female voice reads every instruction aloud, which means early readers will have little cause to struggle with understanding directions, and can focus instead on choosing their answers.
The full voicing in Lola's Alphabet Train is a definite bonus, especially when you consider that it also contains fully-voiced Spanish and French versions as well, which could very easily turn this into a tool for children of all ages to learn another language. It's an impressive addition and we're glad the developers made the effort.
There are a few minor concerns worth bringing up, however. For starters, the music is cheery and bright, but annoyingly repetitive. While this may not bother young gamers, parents might find it irritating before long. Visually, while the game looks marvellous, certain objects can tend to look like other objects, which can be confusing to a child. For instance, once we were asked to choose an object that began with the letter C. We picked what we thought was a "coat," only to learn that the game actually considered it a jacket. We were supposed to choose the cow, which makes sense, except that the cow looked a lot more like a Dalmatian. Larger objects would have helped here, and they would have also made them easier for children to select. It's a small gripe but worth mentioning, as confusion is never a useful thing for a learning game to instil.
Additionally, it might be worth mentioning that the child who helped us test the game for review purposes became rather bored with it very quickly. This was no reflection on the quality of the game, but it may speak to a lack of engagement. Of course, educational games don't have to be played for hours on end in order for the child to learn, but it does go to show that your child's particular level of interest may vary.
Overall though, Lola's Alphabet Train accomplishes what it sets out to do: it provides young children with a pleasant, enjoyable learning environment, and gives them a different assortment of spelling and vocabulary puzzles every time they play. There are also three modes of difficulty, which means it might even be useful for more than one child in your home. Again, it's more a learning tool than a game, but it's a darned charming one.
For gamers with small children, Lola's Alphabet Train may be a useful addition to their collection. A fun presentation, simple controls and full voicing means that youngsters are likely to respond pretty positively to this one; the only question is how long it will hold their attention. For the price, however, pulling it out for brief learning sessions can still make Lola's Alphabet Train worth the purchase.