Features

Educational Game Hits and Misses on the iPhone and iPod Touch

The Apple App Store LogoThe iPhone/iPod Touch platform sports an overwhelming offering of applications and games. Game Forward decided to find and briefly review some of the platform’s most interesting educational games released in recent months.

The selection process was long and tedious, considering the large number of categories available and the sheer number of software released on a daily basis. We decided to look at the following six games for their creative appeal, educational effectiveness and overall entertainment value. Read More…

abc Pocket Phonics

First up was abc Pocket Phonics (Lite Version), a very basic game by Apps in My Pocket Ltd., mainly aimed at young children who are starting to learn the use of letters and sounds as part of the English language. The game is best played with the support of a parent or tutor to read out loud and explain the instructions.

abc Pocket Phonics presents 64 sound groups gathered by commonality. To start the game players choose a sound group to study. The game voice, which can be set to an American or British English accent, will pronounce a sound and ask you to use your finger on the touch screen to write the letter associated to it. These letters will be repeated in the following part of the game. In this second phase, the game voice will pronounce a sound, part of a word this time, and players will tap on the letter or combination of letters matching the sound to build a word. As you progress through the game, the sounds presented will get more complex. At any time, you can touch the arrow at the bottom of the device screen to hear the sound again.

The game itself is very basic looking, using default iPhone/iPod Touch overlays and menus. When you build a word correctly a crude smiley face and star will show on the bottom of the screen, but those are really the only graphics found in this game. The audio which plays an important part in the game is adequate, though I found it difficult to recognize some of the vowel sounds, which may cause some problems to child who is just starting to learn. I also found it difficult to hear the audio adequately unless I was in a completely silent room. abc Pocket Phonics is a decent teaching tool more than it is a game and would be most useful if played with an adult, who can provide encouragement and support.

DigiDisc

DigiDisc is a brightly coloured and attractive looking math puzzle game by Rumarka. While it offers little instructions or actual educational content, the game does encourage logical thinking. The purpose of DigiDisc is to align the wheels on which six numbers and operation symbols appear in order to create three simultaneously correct mathematical equations. To do so, simply flick them with your finger on the touch screen.

DigiDisc is ColourfulThe game offers three difficulty levels and equations are randomly generated every time you launch the application. In Easy mode, the equations are basic and made up of only one operation. In Normal mode, there will be two consecutive operations to obtain the result, while in Hard mode, there are three operations containing fours series of numbers. To solve the puzzle players must spin each disc until the right numbers and operation symbols are displayed. A timer keeps tracks of your speed and the top completion speed is displayed at each difficulty level.

The main drawback here is the lack of instruction or tips on how to solve the puzzles. I found myself completely incapable of finishing them on Normal and Hard modes. Overall, while very basic and perhaps entertaining to some, DigiDisc misses the mark as an educational game.

Mathemagics

Mathemagics (Lite Version) is a great little tool presented by Blue Lightning Labs which helps teach and practice tricks to speed up your mental math abilities. With a simple, yet very effective notebook-style presentation, the game puts players in front of 20 math shortcuts such as how to easily square any number ending in 5. These tricks may appear daunting at first, but put into practice they become easily graspable. When faced with a problem to solve, use your newly acquired skills to determine which of the multiple choice answers is the right one.

Built more as a game, Mathemagics keeps a steady track of your progress. After learning a new shortcut, practise it a number of times to level up to “apprentice” rank, followed by “journeyman”, “entertainer”, “showman”, and finally “mathemagician”. Even after reaching that maximum ranking within a specific math trick, you can continue practicing it at will.

While some of these tricks may drastically improve your mental math abilities, I did find some to be very difficult, which would require me to use a pen and paper to solve. However, Mathemagics is a fun math game that I would recommend to teenagers and adults looking to sharpen their math skills.

Grammar Jr.

This game developed by Brian Ewanchuck is another very barebones affair which is a learning and practice tool focusing on parts of speech in the English language. With no introduction, the game starts right away with a sentence on screen and instructions asking you to identify the subject noun, by tapping on it. Players will then be asked to identify the remaining parts of speech in the sentence.

There appears to be no beginning or end to this “game”, meaning that you simply keep playing until you have had enough. The only reward is a green checkmark which shows up on the screen once you have identified all the words in the sentence. For real beginners, there is also a “learning mode” which reveals the part of speech under each word. The help button at the bottom of the touch screen will also provide information about the part of speech you are currently trying to identify.

This is another learning and practice tool more than it is a game. The presentation values are practically inexistent and there lacks a sense of progression when playing it, but it does serve its purpose as a basic teaching resource for grammar.

GeoTap

GeoTap is a surprisingly creative educational game on the iPhone/iPod Touch platform from Redd Rabbitt Media Inc. and Concentric Sky. As the name indicates geography is the main topic of the game, though it also touches on some general knowledge of history and famous landmarks. With its neat presentation and attractive graphics, The main goal of GeoTap is to identify as closely as possible the location of specific cities, landmarks or historical events on a world map.

GeoTap Features Over 800 LocationsUsing the devices’ multitouch feature, players can pinch the map outward to zoom in, as well as double or triple tap for maximum zoom in and out. Tapping once on the map will select your location. Each game is made up of 12 rounds of five locations to identify and scoring varies on how closely you identified the spot, with bonus points granted for speed. Players must have earned a minimum amount of points in order to move on to the next round.

The game presents a library of over 800 locations which continues to be updated by the developers. GeoTap also offers trivia on loading screen which makes it a really well presented and fleshed out educational game. This enjoyable, original game is a great application which actually leads players to learn or expand on their geographic knowledge with all the entertainment value of a traditional portable game.

Speed Bones MD


This is another very basic yet original game (Lite Version), which appears to be a study tool for medical students or individuals curious about learning more about the human body. Developed by Benoit Essiambre, this game is more of a test of knowledge rather than a teaching tool.

When starting a game, players will be rapidly asked to identify a bone by tapping on the correct part of the skeleton. A bar on the left-hand side of the screen shows you how much time is left, and the faster the bone is identified the higher the score multiplier will be. Each round is made up of five bones to identify.

There are 18 different game levels, which appear to increase in difficulty. Harder levels will include such tasks as identifying parts of vertebrae, or the skull, many naming bones I had personally never heard of until using this application. The advanced nature of the questions asked makes me believe this is a serious studying application best directed at medical students.

The game’s graphics are excellent, though the size of the screen can make identifying smaller bones difficult. However, the touch detection seems to be relatively forgiving in that regard. A similar application also exists called Speed Muscles MD, based on the same principle. This series could be excellent for aspiring medical students eager to learn and practice on their own.

While this overview is nowhere near exhaustive, it does offer some insight into what works and what doesn’t in the world of educational games on the iPhone/iPod Touch platform. A game with detailed instructions and hints, enjoyable graphics, original content and a fun gameplay will fare much better than one without these attributes. Game Forward hopes to see more quality educational games on the Apple portable platform in the near future.