Language games sharpen tongue


Believe me, I'd rather be playing "Call of Duty: World at War" than "My Word Coach," because in the online version of "World at War," I just earned my level-65 general stripes, and that means I finally get to burn up Nazis with a flamethrower. Fire!

But I've written enough about "World at War" lately, and not enough about Wii and DS teaching games like "My Word Coach," which is a nice break from virtual death, and it delivers exactly what the title promises:

It drills into your head unusual words you don't know ("bauxite" anyone?), and it helps you remember odd words you know but never use in conversation, e-mails or living wills ("doleful").

My favorite minigame in "My Word Coach" is called "Block Letters." It acts like "Tetris." The screen fills up slowly with letter blocks. You click those blocks to spell words, then the blocks disappear. If you don't spell enough words fast enough, the screen overflows with unused blocks and you kind of lose, sorry.

In other words, it is exactly the kind of game you parents might want to force into your kids' brains.

Or in the alternative, it's one of those games you parents might want to force upon your senior parents to keep their brains firing, or upon hospitalized patients looking for light, cognitive exercises.

Basically, I'm saying you should force this game on someone. I'm big on "forcing" today.

Anyway, "My Word Coach" is not just a spoonful of medicine. It is a game, featuring more than a handful of so-called "fun" exercises, and since I'm an occasional egghead, they are indeed fun to me, if not on par with scorching Nazis to their graves.

I recognize most of the words in "My Word Coach," such as "Decipher," "Dispirited," "Atrium" and "Baritone." Quite a few words and definitions are no-brainers, such as "Sentinel" and "Childhood." But overall, you do get a good instruction game here.

In the minigame "Safecracker," you read a word's definition -- such as, "In a wild and evil fashion" -- then you play a quick game resembling "Hangman" in which you figure out what that word is, and spell it. ("Demonically" is the answer to that "wild and evil" clue.)

I'm a big fan of these Wii and DS teaching games, especially for the hand-held DS, because you can play them to sharpen your wits while you're stuck in trains, planes and automobiles, and in hospital and home beds while you're recuperating from illness.

The company Ubisoft is a go-to brand for instructive games. "My Word Coach" comes from Ubisoft's "My Coach" line, which includes the language games, "My Spanish Coach," "My French Coach," "My Italian Coach," "My Japanese Coach" and "My Dutch Coach," plus "My Weight Loss Coach," "My Stop Smoking Coach" and "My SAT Coach."

I haven't played all those "Coach" games. I have dabbled most in "My French Coach," which helped me remember lessons from college French classes. But as far as I got into it, it seemed like a good secondary French companion, rather than as a primary way to excel at French from scratch.

Bottom line: If you're a guardian of children or seniors, or if you're interested in expanding your vocabulary horizons, these "My Coach" games provide a calm, brain-boosting break from the killing fields of our real and virtual "World at War." Although, flamethrowers are fun.

("My Word Coach" by Ubisoft retails for $30 for Wii; $20 for DS -- Plays as fun as learning games can be. Looks OK. Easy to challenging, depending on your age and intellect. Rated "E." Three stars out of four.)

Contact Doug Elfman at 702-383-0391 or e-mail him at delfman@reviewjournal. com. He also blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

 

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