I bought My Word Coach several months ago as kind of a graduation present for myself. The logic behind it was that it was a way to use my graduation money on something that was somehow similar to the field I graduated in. After all I am an English major that wants to be in the video games industry so this isn’t that bad of a mix.
There are 6 small games that are aimed to help you improve your knowledge of words. The 6 games are Missing Letter, Alphabet Soup, Safe Cracker, Split Decision, Block Letters and Word Shuffle. Through these little games you are supposed to improve your vocabulary all Brain Age style. They also have four coaches to guide you through each with their own personalities and ways to help.
Of the games I think Missing letter is by far the best, but Split Decision is pretty darn good as well and the two of them in reality offer the best chances to actually seriously learn the more than 14,000 words that the game claims to have. Missing Letter gives you a word with one letter missing (or another letter in its place) and you are to figure out what is supposed to be there. It is a great way to learn how to spell all the words. Split Decision gives you a word or definition and you are to figure out which definition or word is the correct match with it. This one offers a great way to learn what the words mean.
The worst of the games is Safe Cracker which gives you a dial of letters, a definition, blanks for each letter, and the first letter of the word. You have to dial through the letters to spell the word using the definition. But really the Alphabet Soup and Word Blocks is this game also almost to a tee, just with different variations of it. AIphabet Soup you get the definition, the blanks and the letters of the word in the soup and you drag them to the proper place. Word Blocks gives you falling blocks to spell out words in a list. The problem with Safe Cracker more than the other two though, given that you don’t have the letters sitting for you is that you have to figure out what the word is based on the definition which is difficult giving how many words mean pretty much the same thing and often start the same way. Many words I knew but didn’t know the variation… words like Imaginative and Imagination or similar circumstances can prove difficult and you find yourself sitting there watching the computer figure out the word for you and you try to speed through to beat it with only a couple letters left. I felt the game was frustrating to say the least.
The last game, Word Shuffle was a good concept, but fairly easy. You had a bulletin board of definitions and you tried to match up words to the definitions. It is like Split Decision with many words and often becomes just a matter of narrowing out words.
The aspect of the four trainers was actually a fairly good idea by the dev team in this case. At first i was warey of the idea, cause I really liked the single one from Brain Training. But as the game went on, it my trainer would go on vacation and a new one would take his place for a day or two. What I found was just how different the trainers were, offering you new tips based on their specialty and what not. This meant that if I ever got sick of hearing one’s tips, I could switch to another and get an entirely new feel to the game. I felt the animations of them were a little too much but they still worked.
Another complaint I had was that of scoring. The scoring in the game made no sense. Many of the games seemed nearly impossible not to get a passing, or even a really good score. Other games were very difficult to get a good score. There just wasn’t a good consistency. For example, in the Word Shuffle game I often got a poor score even though I always completed well ahead of yellow time, same with Safe Cracker and Alphabet Soup. It made little sense to me and I thought it was more than anything an arbitrary thing that they added because they felt they needed to.
As for the words. Some were great, some were not. It wasn’t just that they were words that you would never use, they were words no one has used for a hundred years. There were several of words such as Haberdash. Yeah I learned what it meant, but who cares? I have a feeling that the developers just threw in these type of words for the humor of it, but in this type of game it didn’t have a place.
The real problem with the game is that of price. If they had gone along with the Brain Training price of $19.99 I think this game would have been ok, it would have still not matched up with the forefather but at least you wouldn’t be out as much. I think they have since lowered the price, but I still feel jaded from having paid the higher $29.99 price. Even at the lower price, I really thought that they could have also used a side game to help with words as well. For instance, how hard would it have been to put in like 50 crosswords to do? After all, Brain Training came out with 100 Sudoku and that almost made the price worth it altogether (beside the fact that it had 9 games that were of a much better quality than the 6 My Word Coach includes).
Still, I give Ubisoft a lot of credit for giving the game a go, and I don’t think it was a side thought to them the way that it seems to with a lot of other companies who are jumping on this brain game phenomenon. I think they were somewhat serious about it, but just didn’t make the goal. I also think this in particular is a wide open market that really needs to be explored… and by this I mean the language based games. I would personally love to see Japanese games and what not and would love to see these types of games really take off. Hopefully they will come up with a second one in the future that really fixes these problems and comes up with an overall more enjoyable experience. But until that time, I am going to give this game a C to C+.