A couple weeks back I wrote about Character Chowdown, a new game for iOS (Universal, Free) that seeks to help students (or anyone, really) learn new languages. For now, the game is focused on Japanese characters, and with your free download of the game you get the katakana character set. Beyond that, there is a hiragana set and hundreds of kanji to unlock as in-app purchases.
I went ahead and gave it a spin, and the game itself is pretty straightforward. If you want a run-down on how the game works and my thoughts, hit past the jump!
There isn't any background music (or noise at all) to distract you, and the mechanics are as simple as dragging your hungry little cartoon character to the letters you're being asked to identify, then hitting the chow button (bottom, right). The command bar is at the bottom, and it will say things like:
"Eat the katakana for 'mu'"
"Eat the hiragana for 'a'"
"Eat the hiragana for 'su'"
You get the idea. Once you've mastered particular characters, they won't come up as often (if at all) and the game moves on to new letters until you've completely cleared the character set. Each "stage" jumps seamlessly to the next and there is no loading time.
You'll face some obstacles while trying to identify the various letters or words, and they come in the form of drooling, hungry Nommons. They come up and start licking the characters to change their meanings. As they go by, you'll see the characters being swapped. Thankfully, you could just fling them away with your finger by dragging them off-screen like I did.
The other challenge I found with this game is the actual letters aren't really padded enough in anything eye-catching. They're simply plain, black characters over simple cityscape backgrounds, and I sometimes had a hard time finding them. They do flash red when they first start coming up so you learn what the shape looks like, and then once you've had your toon eat a bunch of the same letter, they won't flash any more. They'll stay plain black.
Besides that one tiny hitch, I have no problems with the game. It's a fun little on-the-go thing that you can pick up or put down whenever. I exit the game and got back on it, and it had saved my progress. If you're into Game Center points and achievements, Character Chowdown is also plugged in to that, so the more characters you learn, the more points you'll rack up.
If you have any iOS devices and you are looking for a casual method to learn how to identify Japanese characters for their meanings, this might be the game for you. Especially since it's Free, Character Chowdown is definitely worth a try. Just put some of your own background music on if you don't necessarily need to study in silence.
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