Hiragana Pixel Party
I'm a big fan of Japanese culture and have picked up a fair amount on the audio side of the spoken language (but always procrastinated on the written portion.) So when I saw Hiragana Pixel Party, I thought to myself 'well here's a great way to light a fire under my fat arse.' It's got the look, the mission and the polish to be an amazing app. Is it all you need to learn Hiragana and Kanji though?
For the unacquainted, the written Japanese language consists of three different scripts:
Hiragana - used to write native words for which there is no translation
Katakana - used for more modern words and bridges translation from other countries
Kanji - each character represents an idea or their own word (which is the more advanced portion of the language, which is why beginners start with Hiragana and Katakana.)
Unlike the latin alphabet consisting of 26 letters, Hiragana has 48 characters and Katakana has 51 so you can see where the learning scale bends. Which is where we have Hiragana Pixel Party. I'm an absolute beginner but willing to learn so entered with an open mind. Using the rhythm of the chip tunes you press the Hiragana in sequence to jump over blocks. The blocks (depending on how well or bad you are doing) will either show the translation of the sound bite to make things easier or be blocked out to try and make you learn better. As the lessons progress more characters are thrown into the mix to increase your vocabulary.
The music is amazing, the 8-bit graphics as well as the production values are top notch, you can tell a lot of work and thought when into this game. It frustrated me a lot, sometimes for the wrong reasons unfortunately. The game sounds a sequence at you that you are supposed to remember and press in the same order with the rhythm. WITH THE RHYTHM. I'm not learning rhythm, I'm learning the language, right? I'd get the right order in my mind but I'd press it too early or late and it'd flash red. There is a message that says too early or too late but the tests are quick and frantic to correct yourself.
The other problem I had was the sheer jump in difficulty. You'd start off confident and walk along with the test, a sequence of 2, then 4, then 3 and then suddenly 8. It's not just remembering the characters, it's remembering the sequence and everything goes by so fast and suddenly WRONG WRONG WRONG. It takes patience but when practicing over and over, you have that satisfying feeling over achievement. This isn't a game where achieving a high score is your goal, you're here to learn. But does it help?
With consistent practice it is. Like Brain Age games, playing for a little bit a day will keep the information fresh in your mind and eventually have you knowing the basics of Japanese literature. As with everything in life worth having, it takes work, effort and consistency.