If you combine DSiWare and WiiWare, Tivola’s Successfully Learning series has been one of the most prolific franchises available for download. Just when we thought it was all over, Successfully Learning English: Year 2 makes the transition from DSiWare to WiiWare, and young pupils can breathe a sigh of relief. The question is whether this is a useful learning tool, and the basic answer is yes.
The edutainment concept should be familiar to all by now, but in summary it involves blending interactive lessons with a reward in the form of a bonus game. It’s a carrot and stick approach that works, and Tivola has decided that as it isn’t broken there’s no need to look for a fix. The structure is the same as before: ten categories of lessons are offset by time in the bonus game, earned by doing well in the tests.
Unlike the DSiWare equivalent, there’s only one lesson per category as opposed to two, meaning that there’s basically half of the educational content. As this is learning English for very young children, the categories on offer range from ‘Animals’ to ‘Where I Live’, and other simple lessons designed to introduce the concepts of numbers, colours and day-to-day objects. Some of the questions, such as those found in ‘Me, my family and my friends’ also demand some basic logic beyond identifying objects, so there’s a decent mental workout for the target audience.
In general the lessons seem to be well structured, though the overall package does feel light on content. As expected, all is controlled with the Wii Remote pointer, and we found the cursor to be quite jittery and over-sensitive, which may bother young children into a pouting rage. Thankfully the required interactions involve pressing on individual buttons, so controller-throwing tantrums should, just about, be avoided.
With edutainment, of course, it’s all about the Bonus Game. With one to three stars awarded after each lesson, pupils earn play time and, if they get three stars in all categories, win the right to unlimited play. The game on offer is all about placing a few different shapes onto a template in the most efficient way possible; shapes move along the bottom of the screen, and you’ve got to grab and place plenty of them within a time limit. On the plus side it’s a simple but decent logic puzzle with 28 levels, and by the end it’s a genuine challenge. The negative is that the erratic pointer controls can frustrate, and this is also a game that would be more suitable for a mathematics title.
In terms of presentation, this title is relatively pleasant and colourful without filling us with happiness and excitement. The irrepressible Freddy the Vampire does at least have some basic animations and a chirpy ‘be my friend’ voice, and exercises have a teacher’s voice to guide you along. It’s inoffensively bland, even if the main menu music may irritate after a while, and those with more than one child of the right age will be pleased to know that multiple user profiles are available.
Successfully Learning English: Year 2 on WiiWare benefits from a more stimulating presentation than the DSiWare equivalent, but with just one test per category is light on content. The bonus game is thoroughly decent, albeit out of place, but the pointer controls are particularly sensitive and fiddly. Overall, it’s a decent effort that may be useful for patient young pupils.