I’ve always wanted to learn a second language, but I always found it quite difficult to do so. Since I spend so much time expanding my English lexicon (so that I can properly use words like “lexicon”), it’s far too complicated for me to grasp starting over. When a recent occurrence took away my ability to use Rosetta Stone, I figured I’d just give up learning Japanese all together. That’s where Influent by SanJiten comes in.
Influent is a new, interactive language building game that uses exploration to help users compile a list of vocabulary words from a country of your choice. It’s a standard third-person to first-person control scheme that allows the player to peruse through a fictional character’s apartment finding everyday items to add to a list of words. These words are all stored in a central catalog to study freely at any time. Once mastered, they give you collectable stars that unlock additional words and modes.
Developer: Rob Howland
Publisher: Three Flip Studios
Release: March 20, 2014
Each mode is designed to challenge you based on how much you’ve scourged the surrounding area. Time Attack is the central focus of these modes and the first you’ll acquire out of them. As expected, you are given a random word from your list and you must find the item mentioned while you’re time is recorded. While effective in getting you acquainted with the words, the timer puts unnecessary pressure on you and the cluttered areas and small items coupled with the imprecise controls can often cause you to choose the wrong word for the wrong reason. This can discourage you from learning whatever word you failed to. While that would normally be your own fault, Influent doesn’t allow you to play other modes or learn adjectives or verbs based around the items until it determines that you’ve “mastered” it.
Mastering a word is determined by the game and not you. From what I could tell, if you get a word a multitude of times, it’ll give you a pass. However, it doesn’t feel like you can track how close you are to mastering a word and seems like the most effective way to learn is for you to make that determination. Luckily, you can swap around and organize lists however you want so even if you don’t feel sufficient, you can still try whatever you need to at your own leisure. Additionally, you can choose what is displayed by enabling or disabling the written word, the spoken word, or both, which may help you depending on your teaching method. These all tie into your To-Do List to give you a more calculated approach.
The To-Do list gives you goals and guidelines when you feel like you aren’t going at an adequate pace. These all include finding new nouns, mastering a number of words, and learning specific words in a category. While it doesn’t count for any unlocks, it does help you along and encourage you to try things you may not immediately attempt. It’ll also bait you into trying some of the more obscure game types.
Probably the strangest of these game types is the “Fly By Mode.” While at first I thought this would play more like the Jack Attack from You Don’t Know Jack, I was surprised to find it’s a lot closer to Star Fox 64 than anything else. You control a small spaceship and fly around the house shooting the corresponding item to the word that flashes at the bottom of the screen. While the concept is is fun, the control of the craft is frustratingly hard to get used to. Turning is done by the mouse and using left and right results in an infinite barrel roll. Opening drawers and doors to find items is awkward and if you thought selecting an item using the normal controls was difficult, wait until you’re given a word like “fork” and are forced to fly downward into a sink, in hopes of shooting the item multiple times before you crash.
While Influent has a great concept behind it, the execution is hurt by clunky controls. The modes that try to encourage to learn by playing games are hampered, and you can’t really track your own progress by your own standards. What’s worse is that while this is a great aid for learning everyday words, it doesn’t actually teach you the language. It’s basically a glorified vocabulary list instead of a language teaching game. It doesn’t teach grammar or usage, nor does it really delve into adjectives or verbs. The few that it does give you must be unlocked, which is a bizarre concept in a game designed to teach you. While the effort is noticeable and it deserves bonus points for having a storyline, you would be better off just checking the Internet for a vocabulary list or two before spending cash on Influent.
SAI-OH-NARA! See, I learned so much!