Successfully Learning English: Year 5 Review
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
One more class, Freddy
Successfully Learning English: Year 5 represents, probably, the end of an edutainment era. Across DSiWare and WiiWare, Freddy the Vampire has appeared in over 20 titles covering a few different subjects in relentless detail for young pupils, all with the same style, structure and bland presentation. The final part of the Wii's entries in the Learning English series has arrived, and the final bell is about to ring. We'd like to say we're disappointed, but that would be something of a lie.
Much of what follows feels like a repeat of what's come before - partly because it is. Due to the series' legacy as a smaller group of retail Wii discs in mainland Europe, these downloads often bring with them a heavy dose of deja-vu, with constantly re-used assets looping ad infinitum. As we've said before, Tivola hasn't fixed something that isn't broken in terms of what this download delivers: pupils are gently guided through themed exercises and given a grade of one to three stars; the more stars the more play time in the bonus game, simple but effective.
The ten categories on offer are the same as those seen in the previous three entries in this particular series, covering topics such as Where I Live, Animals and School. All do the job, with the curriculum showing the now-standard quirks and silly moments, such as a real bear being represented by a picture of a teddy bear, and strange "odd-one-out" examples and explanations such as "standing straight is not something you do every day". Last we checked, it was.
Those eccentricities aside the educational material seems solid and, undoubtedly, represents a genuine step up from the previous entry. In fact we had to engage our brains, albeit in a limited sense, with some early questions that involved reading the time from old-school clocks; no digital time nonsense here. Pupils need to use a little more logic than before, while filling gaps into sentences correctly and generally showing a stronger grasp of basic words and phrases.
Pupils that do well get time in the bonus game, which is easily the most fiendish we've seen in the series. In principle it looks simple as you move a ball in four directions to reach a portal, but the mazes to navigate, and the fact that momentum in each move is only halted by walls, mean that only one route will work and will take a bit of figuring out. After grinding through the lessons we genuinely found ourselves scratching our heads in some of the earliest levels, with a lot of trial and error needed. In truth this is likely to be too difficult for young children on their own, but will be a perfect challenge with an adult helping out.
In terms of the audio-visual presentation the complaints remain the same: the interface is uninspiring but competent, and truly lacking in imagination. Should Tivola work on further educational downloads on 3DS or Wii U we hope that, rather than break up a cohesive retail package into multiple parts, more stimulating themes and styles will be incorporated. Working through lessons is pleasant enough, but it's certainly not enjoyable or interesting.
Successfully Learning English: Year 5 represents a steady progression in difficulty from its predecessor, with the now standard level of competence. The bonus game is surprisingly tricky, but could be a good challenge for pupils with a helpful adult, while the lessons are perfectly decent. Still, after all this time old Freddy the Vampire is a little jaded and in need of some new ideas; if this proves to be his final outing, he's unlikely to be missed by many.