Nintendoâs always been a pretty innovative company. They invented a bunch of stuff thatâs now considered standard - things like the d-pad, shoulder buttons, and numerous other technologies. So itâs no surprise to see slightly unusual things come out for their hardware. Even so, this is right up there with the best of them...
At its heart, Learn with Pokemon: Typing Adventure is, believe it or not, a game. Despite all that edutainment stuff in the name, thereâs a game in here and itâs pretty decent too. The gist is simple enough; a bunch of Pokemon appear and you get points and acclaim by typing their names as quickly as possible. Typing? Yes, typing - with the included bluetooth keyboard. You can play it without a keyboard, pecking away on the screen, but thatâs a bad idea. Donât do that.
The keyboardâs well-made, without being super flashy, with nice looking keys that feel responsive to the touch. Like most keyboards, thereâs a bit of adjustment when you first give it a go (more or less so, depending on what you usually use) but unless youâre super picky, it doesnât feel like any kind of compromise - even for extended sessions. I like it so much, in fact, iâm going to chuck in my bag next time I head on a trip someplace and use it with my iPad (yep, you can do that.)
Things start off simply enough, in the game, as youâre challenged to simply type the first letter of each Pokemon as they appear on the screen. Why youâre doing this is, well, about as important as it is in any Pokemon game; i.e., not very. Doing so researches them, or something, and someone needs you to do that for reasons that arenât really important.
Whatâs more important is that, by typing the names of these Pokemon, you catch âem and, well, you know the rest. Each time you play a track, only a few of the possible Pokemon for that area actually appear; replaying, then, is a chance to not only improve your score, but also catch âem all. It sounds simple, and it is - but it still works and is as compelling as ever.
As time marches on, you have to type more and more letters, before encountering various legendary Pokemon - complete with much more challenging, staged, and unique mechanics for each. You might, for example, have to type in the letters on a bunch of fireballs before they reach you, or type the letters on a rapidly-growing plant before they grow off the screen.
As much as the gameplay is about typing the words as soon as they appear, itâs also about typing the words before they appear; i.e. recognising the Pokemon. Itâs here that the Pokemon fanatic has an advantage over everyone else. The difficulty, believe it or not, ramps up pretty quickly - if you want to perfect all the courses, you need both typing skill and Pokemon-identifying ability. Fortunately, a modicum of each is all thatâs required to get the base (bronze) medal in most of the tracks.
As discussed, thereâs a lot of game here, and for the most part, itâs pretty good. Itâs fun, itâs got good structure, and itâs always nice to do something new - especially when thatâs within a rather long-lived franchise, shall we say. However, what you probably thought, when you saw the name of the game (especially the âlearningâ bit), was that this was a game that was going to teach you how to type. Itâs really not going to do that.
At no point does it tell you where to put your fingers, or give you any exercises that help you remember where the home keys are. In fact, it doesnât tell you anything at all, not in an instructional way, other than how to play (and even then, the instructions are simple and to the point.) Itâs good practice, after a fashion, although itâs unlikely youâll ever type these words in any other context; at best, itâs probably great impetus to practice your typing, as speed really is a big advantage.
Learn with Pokemon: Typing Adventure, then, is more game than I expected but also less educational. Thatâs just fine by me, as I can already type well enough, and I quite like playing games. But itâs a good thing to be aware of, depending on how you might be trying to justify buying the game. The keyboard, too, is a quality unit, and the little stand that comes with the game (to support your DS, DSi, or 3DS) is similarly well made and well suited for the purpose.
Now if youâll excuse me, I need to learn how to identify Pokemon just by the sound they make, as the little buggers have taken to hiding in the bushes.