Certain things are inevitable, such as death, taxes and another Successfully Learning download. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, if you have a young child that could use some extra help with the subject at hand, and Successfully Learning English: Year 3 delivers reliably. It does exactly the same as predecessor Successfully Learning English: Year 2, but with new questions, and that pretty much sums up the whole deal.
Still, if you haven’t read any of our previous 22 reviews in this series on WiiWare or DSiWare, let’s summarise. The concept is for young pupils to complete a number of exercises under the guidance, albeit minimal, from cheerful mascot Freddy the Vampire. Between one and three gold stars are awarded per exercise depending on performance, which generates play time for the bonus game. If the pupil aces every exercise, play time becomes unlimited, so it’s a case of do the work to get the fun reward.
It’s a solid idea that works, and like previous entries the ten categories on offer do a decent job of testing the student’s competencies: although the DSiWare downloads have two exercises in each category, meaning double the educational content. The categories will be familiar to those that have completed Year 2, and cover a broad range of subjects that test basic understanding of colours, numbers, items and even some rudimentary logic exercises.
Like previous entries, there are occasional quirks in the material that seem slightly off-key. There’s the At School category where illustrations for folders and books look very similar, Animals where the same image is used for a mouse and rat, and the peculiar line in the toys and hobbies category where the soothing tones of the voice-over state that “a kite isn’t a hobby”, correct on a literal level but likely to cause scratching of young heads. These are exceptions, but provide reminders of the minor inconsistencies evident throughout this series as a whole.
Likewise, the implementation of the Wii Remote is both functional and slightly irritating at the same time. Pointing and pressing A is nice and simple, but exercises where the pupil is required to colour in objects is frustrating when the object in question is rather small on the screen, a problem as young hands aren’t renowned for being the most steady. Those colouring exercises also defy the sensible logic applied elsewhere in the package, as we were unfortunately asked to colour a snowman yellow and an egg blue, the former an unfortunate joke and the latter indicative of other examples where actually teaching children is abandoned. If there’s going to be colouring exercises, they should surely be as accurate as the remainder of the exercise questions.
That said, it’s all competent, and that same term applies to the bonus game on offer. For those that can’t get enough of 2D overhead block pushing puzzles in The Legend of Zelda, it’s happy times indeed. It’s all about pushing crates to marked areas on a grid, though no pulling is allowed, with a crude representation of Freddy the Vampire doing the work. The default controls of pointing to a destination with A and waggling the Wii Remote to push a block are slightly clumsy, but it’s also possible to move Freddy with the D-Pad. There’s no time limit, but it’s possible to make a mistake that forces a restart, so by the end there’s some decent logic puzzling to be done. We believe this mini-game appeared in one of the DSiWare entries, but by this stage everything has probably been seen in another version on either platform.
As for the presentation, all previous complaints carry across to this title, which isn’t a surprise as these downloads have previously been packaged as a retail disc outside of the UK. The colour palette is bright but rather uninspiring, while the voice-overs are likewise decent but bland. The music is of the irritating elevator variety, however, which may cause parents to reach for the mute button. If you have more than one little student who wants to use the software, meanwhile, there are three save profiles available to avoid any arguments over gold stars.
Successfully Learning English: Year 3 carries on where its predecessor left off. The exercises are decent if not as substantial as on the DSiWare equivalent, while the bonus game is an unremarkable but solid part of the package. The usual quirks and idiosyncrasies apply, but it earns its customary passing grade.