App Reviewed on: iPad 3
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WordGirl Superhero Training is a PBS educational app based on the PBS show WordGirl that, like the name describes, revolves around a superhero girl with a focus on introducing new vocabulary to viewers through a conversational means. I really enjoy WordGirl - bright and colorful, with nuances reminiscent of The Powerpuff Girls with an educational spin easily palatable for children of all ages. The heart of WordGirl Superhero Training includes four mini-games that are geared towards strengthening skills such as memory, logic, and reflexes in an arcade-styled game that also includes a vocabulary element as well a maze-centric section involving synonyms.
I really enjoy the creative ideas included within these sections. Instead of the classic “concentration”-styled game of flipping over cards to match pairs, one must focus on two related objects before they are “WHAMED” apart by the villain, The WHAMER, and are in need of being put back together by the player in this puzzle-themed section that helps children learn detailed words to describe these commonplace objects.
I am also quite fond of how logic is explored as WordGirl has to go up against Chuck the Evil Sandwich-Making Guy as he delivers specific rules for sandwich-building that demand focus, good listening skills, logic, and critical thinking as instructions for sandwich prep will include notes on where to place or not to place ingredients. Another thoughtfully developed game asks WordGirl to navigate a maze, needing to transport herself via portholes linked by synonyms to work her way through these areas. The most arcade-like section of this app tests children’s reflexes as well as work knowledge as they need to sort words seen as different meats thrown by The Butcher in order to separate those words that correlate with a specific subject - such as words that relate to "cooking" or "school" - feeding these correct words to WordGirl's monkey sidekick Captain Huggy Face and avoid letting Huggy Face ingest the wrong words as they will make him sick.
Each of these four areas includes a quirky back story with fun information about each of these memorable WordGirl antagonists. Twelve HD shorts are included of WordGirl and Captain Huggy Face in action that both fans of the show as well as those new to the franchise will enjoy. These games do a great job of entertaining children and their adults as the experience is infused with a hefty dose of vocabulary in ways that children are unlikely to forget.
Unfortunately, I do find the experience of playing these games to be a fractured one as children may play only for a few moments before being congratulated on their work, awarded points, and allowed to choose a piece of gear used as part of their character’s avatar. Personally, I feel developers need to stop trying so hard to reward players of educational games and make the games themselves rewarding to play. I don’t take great issue with using obtainable objects to mark specific endpoints during an activity, but please make these shopping experiences few and far between. Luckily a well-placed tap can bypass these avatar sections, an option players need to troubleshoot to find instead of an option an adult could choose from the start of this application.
I have thoroughly enjoyed WordGirl Superhero Training, but it disappoints me that if a child has only half an hour of screen time, much of it could be taken up with designing his avatar and not actually being engaged by the games themselves.