Character Chowdown (iPad)

Character Chowdown is an educational game downloadable on the app store for iPad and iPhone. It helps teach kids (and the young at heart), the basics of the Japanese written language. There are several different kinds of lettering in Japanese, like Katakana, Kanji, etc. Each pack you download in Character Chowdown represents one of those styles of writing. The initial batch just has Katakana, and you download the others separately.

Gameplay is very simple. Drag the cute hungry hero around the screen with your finger. On the bottom the game will tell you what character to eat. For instance, in Katakana, each symbol represents a consonant and a vowel sound, so it’ll tell you on the bottom of the screen which character to eat with English letters. Like “eat the katakana for ‘se’.” Place your guy over that character and hit the ‘eat’ button to gobble it up.

When you come across a new katakana that you haven’t seen before, the character will flash red letting you know what it is. And if you miss one, your hero won’t eat it, just shake his head ‘no’ and the correct character will be red. Sometimes other hungry critters will saunter across the screen. Flick them away with your finger before they eat the letters! And that’s pretty much all there is to it. The game just goes on and on, teaching the characters through repetition. You can also design your own postcards using the characters from the game, and send them via Facebook.

It’s a cute little game, but it could’ve been a lot better. I think it needs more game modes. Like maybe one where you trace the characters with your finger. I think that would help with memory retention of the lessons better. Plus, the game has no audio (at least not in the version I downloaded). Cute sounds and spoken voice would’ve helped make the game more appealing. The way it is, reading skill is a must.  And even though the game is easy to figure out, some better instructions on how to play would’ve been nice.

But I could see using this game as a supplement to a bigger Japanese language lesson plan. Teachers could use this game with their students as a fun side activity. Plus, if you have family that lives in Japan, you can use this game with your kids to help them write and read letters to family overseas. Also, older players who might want to import Japanese games can even learn from this title, since most Japanese games just use Katakana and Kanji anyway. Speaking of which, fans of NIS America’s RPGs may be interested in this game, too, because later on you’ll be able to download popular characters from their lineup. So you might want to check this one out as well if you’re a fan of all things Prinny.

As a side note, I think that learning a second language is a good idea, as it helps you understand your own native tongue better. At least it did with me when I took German in high school and college. I don’t think I would be as good of a writer today if I didn’t take German classes then. Plus I had some excellent teachers. In fact, my high school German teacher was probably the best teacher I ever had. Luckily I got to tell her that later when brother Jeff was in high school, so if you have the opportunity to thank any of your teachers, please do so! Teaching is a thankless job, but a very important one all the same!

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