The Successfully Learning series is becoming one of the most prolific on DSiWare, with Successfully Learning Mathematics: Year 2 now the ninth title on the service. Versions of this mathematical matter have previously been released on WiiWare, but Freddy the Vampire’s campaign to teach all young Nintendo gamers through edutainment means that, once again, we’re going back to the classroom.
The concept and execution of this new entry is identical to DSiWare's English and German series, and is set up with a work and reward system: complete exercises and achieve a good grade – up to three stars – with the goal of unlocking play time in the bonus game. It’s a simple concept, but effective for encouraging a young pupil to complete the exercises on offer.
There are a lot of exercises within this package, separated into nine sections with three different assignments in each. In truth, each assignment within a category is only a slight variation on the others, but it’s nevertheless a significant body of work for a young student. It’s basic, introductory mathematics, with some examples of exercises being addition, subtraction and counting money. Some more complex themes involve forming basic geometric shapes or brainteasers that require both basic math and puzzle-solving.
The actual content of these exercises varies in quality. Geometry and mental arithmetic are among the more stimulating assignments, with arithmetic in particular necessitating quick calculations and moving a falling block over the correct answer. On the other hand, some categories are bland and unappealing, with addition and subtraction tasks in particular presented in dull grids, completely lacking in illustrations or visual appeal. With consideration that the target audience is young children, more effort was needed to make the experience more interesting.
For the most part these exercises get the job done, with one major exception. A grid question in section four, ‘subtraction and addition’, had us completely stumped. We’re not mathematical masters, but being stuck on a problem designed for young children, even for a short time, was a strange predicament. It was only after a break from the game that we figured out the workings to complete the problem. If it required that much effort from us, it’s probably not appropriate for a young pupil. We’d advise that adults work through all of the exercises with students, in fact, as some of the question’s descriptions are a little beyond a six or seven year-old.
The goal of all this learning, of course, is to unlock precious play time in the bonus game. Unlike some of the earlier entries in the series this game actually features mascot Freddy the Vampire, albeit as a blurry figure seen from a top-down view. The game is basically a number of block pushing puzzles, familiar ground for anyone who’s worked through dungeons in 2D The Legend of Zelda titles. It may not be particularly imaginative or enthralling, but the puzzles are reasonably tricky and will keep young gamers busy. Movement and pushing can be done with either the stylus or D-Pad, both equally effective and intuitive. The stars accumulated in exercises, meanwhile, not only determine the length of time available for this block pushing, but also the levels that can be played: with 28 levels split into four groups of seven, there’s plenty of incentive for pupils to pursue those gold stars.
The biggest issue with this title, as suggested earlier, is the presentation: the user interface and sound are uninspired. It’s a complaint we’ve made on all previous releases in the series on DSiWare, indicative of the fact that these were originally developed as retail bundles. That shouldn’t overshadow the issue, however, and effort is needed to enliven these titles to stimulate young learners.
Successfully Learning Mathematics: Year 2 continues the trends of its English and German brethren, both the good and the bad. On a positive note, the overall structure is suitable for edutainment, with the bonus game also providing a decent reward for exercise completion. Once again, however, presentation is dull, with some exercises that are worded poorly or are too difficult for the target audience. It’s not entirely without merit, but doesn’t deserve a gold star.