It seems that Tivola’s campaign to bring educational entertainment, or edutainment, to Nintendo consoles is yet to run out of steam. Successfully Learning English: Year 3 is the second entry in this DSiWare series, and the sixth ‘Successfully Learning’ title overall. The first Successfully Learning English Year 2 review made it clear Tivola "must try harder", so does this sequel learn important lessons?
When this title loads, it immediately appears to be exactly the same as its predecessor. The methodology is, therefore, the same: students have exercises to complete, and in exchange receive play time in the title’s Bonus Game. This work and reward strategy is an effective way of encouraging young children to learn, so the developers have kept this intact.
As before, a total of 20 exercises are separated into the same ten categories as before, such as ‘It’s Party Time’ and ‘Food and Drink’. Eager pupils will have around 600 questions to answer if they complete every exercise, which is a healthy amount of content.
Answering questions and navigating around the game is done exclusively with the stylus on the touch screen, a system that is nice and simple for the young audience. The questions themselves follow the same methodology as before, with students identifying pictures to match the description given, applying colours to pictures and counting specific items. If the wrong answer is given three times the correct answer is provided, allowing the student to move on. The objective is to teach words and phrases in relation to images, and the game achieves this goal. The level of difficulty sees a modest increase from the previous entry and the balance seems fair, with new words and slightly more complex sentences gradually introduced.
The achievement system awards between 1 and 3 stars for each exercise based on performance, as well as adding play-time for the Bonus Game; achieving 30 stars out of a possible 60 awards the player with unlimited play-time. In this entry the Bonus Game is a clone of the Atari classic, Breakout. A paddle at the bottom of the screen can be moved either with the stylus or d-pad, with your goal to bounce a ball against overhead blocks. Due to the young target audience the level of difficulty is low, with the ball moving very slowly. Power-ups such as extra lives, a bigger paddle, and a bomb used to destroy a column of blocks, all add a bit of variety. On the downside this game only has three short levels, which shouldn’t trouble even the youngest of gamers. Once the mode is finished, there’s very little reason to go back.
As stated earlier, the aesthetic to this title is identical to its predecessor. Therefore, our complaints remain the same; the menus are bland, with the overall presentation lacking colour and vibrancy. The same pleasant voice-over is used in the exercises, so once again Freddy the Vampire is a mute mascot nodding on the top screen. It’s a shame that the visuals and sound haven’t been improved to provide a more interactive, fun experience.
Successfully Learning English: Year 3 provides a solid progression in the series, once again efficiently delivering an edutainment experience. However, the exact same issues remain, with the title lacking character due to dull presentation, and a Bonus Game that once again fails to hit the mark. As a result the experience is competent but unexciting, making it unlikely to inspire young learners.