Spelling Challenges and More!ESRB:
Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Developer – Supersonic Software
Publisher – Crave Entertainment
Touch Screen Compatible
When this game arrived on my desk I thought that it was a great opportunity to have the DS become quite useful as an educational tool. The promise of learning to spell while under the guise of competing in a spelling bee was somewhat intriguing. Unfortunately after some playtime with the game I have to say that this is definitely not the game I thought it would be as it just hits so many speed bumps along the way.
To say that this game does not push the graphic abilities of the DS is an understatement to say the least. But hey, this is a spelling game for goodness sakes, so what is there to expect. Something that really stood out to me was the color and the use of mainly red. Man I thought that the world was tinted red after playing this game as both screens of the DS were mainly filled with a god-ugly hue of said red. This color burnt into in my retinas after some time and I swear that the rest of the world now has a red tinge to it. As for the rest of the games visual style, it is pretty much plain and unexciting to say the least. Overall I think that a lot more could have been done with the visuals, even if it was to use some other colors that didn’t harm my eyes.
Two things really struck me as I played Spelling Challenges, the host’s voice and the music that plays during the game. First off the game’s host really seems to have a lot to say, from describing the rules of each game to proudly exclaiming how excited he was to see me win some big dough. His voice started to grate on me quite quickly. I wish they used the ability for voice in a better way such as saying the words that you were going to have to spell (more on this in the gameplay section). I can’t the amount of times that I actually wanted to reach through the DS’s screen and strangle the host as he blabbered away. The second issue in this audio area that I really did notice was the music. It can best be described in one simple word: Cheesy. The consensus amongst us here at Gameboyz is that the tunes in game are very…well porn like. Yep, you heard me correctly, porn like. Hey, we are an office of mainly guys, and for a group of us to come up with this definition is somewhat scary. Regardless of how you categorize the music it just doesn’t seem to fit the bill here. I would go on, but I think that I should stop here as I can’t get the music out of my head now. Please, don’t make me think of it anymore.
When you fire up and start playing Spelling Challenges you will feel like you are in some kind of game show. You have a host who strangely looks very, for a lack of a better word, puppety (editors note: is that even a word?). The only thing missing in this game show world is everything else from an audience to other contestants who are playing against you. Regardless, the game show is your spelling bee platform and you are stuck with it. Along with the standard spelling bee round there is also three other word games. You earn money in each round too, but this is not used for anything as it is just basically a score for you to track.
Ok, so I have set up the premise for you in such that you are going to learn to spell right? Well, this is where Spelling Challenges starts to come off the rails. First off, before you try to spell the word, the word is quickly flashed on the screen, and then a definition of said word is available. You heard me right; the game flashes the word first. The first time I saw this I was like “What the hell!!!! Why would this game flash the word first?” They could of used the audio abilities of the DS here and said the word, but for some strange reason they do not. Doesn’t flashing the word kind of defeat the purpose of learning to spell it? Not only does seeing, not hearing, the word make it redundant to learn to spell it, but it also takes away from the feeling of being in an actual spelling bee for goodness sake. I just don’t understand why the game was programmed this way, especially since the game’s host has a lot of vocabulary during the game. I mean really, did they think that everyone who plays this game is going to need to see the word to be somewhat successful at it? Sheesh!!!!!!.
There are around 100 difficulty levels to play in Spelling Challenges, so it is given that the game’s words do get bigger and somewhat harder to spell. That being said, the challenge to most educated people, including kids, is not that difficult, and the words at the higher levels are not as challenging as one would think. Sure, it may challenge a 5 or 6 year old, but anyone that is later on in years should fly through the available difficulty levels.
Beyond the spelling bee aspect of the game, the developers have included 10 mini-games to spice up the overall experience. Now, this sounds good in theory, but in reality a lot of these modes are very similar. For example, games like Not Noun, Hit or Miss, Catchword and What is It are all pretty much the same game but dressed slightly differently. Each of these games is aimed at identifying word forms, and they all feel the same. This somewhat puzzled me as to offer games that are so similar to each other just didn’t seem right as it really didn’t add anything extra. There are two games that are somewhat different, including hangman. That being said, the hangman does not even give you a hangman to watch form, nor does it keep track of the letters you already picked. Maybe it was a fear on the developer’s part of having a hangman image in the game, but hey, hangman has been played on paper for many years, so it is not anything kids haven’t seen before. Bottom-line, good attempt, but again it could have been so much better.
Spelling Challenges and More! had a chance to really be something different as it not only could have been a game, but an educational experience too. However, poor execution and poor style really hurt this games overall score. As this is supposed to be a spelling game, how the heck do the developers expect someone to learn when you show them the word in the first place. I really wanted to endorse this game for you readers out there, but I cannot as this game just seems broken on so many levels and it is the first title in a long time to earn a wholly negative review from me.