The latest language learning companion teaches some great life skills through mini games and several modes that entertain at a decent level, but mainly inform and engage the mind. Mei Li, your life-like virtual Chinese teacher, guides you through the most widely used Chinese language, Mandarin (yes, more than one exist), not Cantonese (largely localized in Hong Kong).
Numerous game modes promote plenty of learning opportunities in some entertaining ways. Players can also check their status, replay lessons, reference a dictionary, check phrases and even sketch characters. Drawing characters, modeled in special presentations, teaches as well, but the main focus remains in the vocabulary and pronunciation then gradually builds to phrases and sentence structure.
After an initial assessment, players are placed among the 29 lessons. The game has minimum requirements for lesson advancement, which eventually build to a huge amount - approximately 1000 lessons, 10,000 words and 1500 phrases.
Asian languages can be challenging to learn. Game developers take efforts boosting the cultural elements since most people playing won’t be traveling to China and living within the culture, which puts all stateside Chinese language education on a level playing field. Players learn about Chinese culture, landmarks and other travel elements related to the existing learning elements. Developers of this $29.99 game wisely give players looking to avoid formal classes several options through the numerous game modes, which can be hard to navigate through at times (maybe a “base” bar that maps your status at the bottom of the screen would help).
Multiple choice and flash card modes provides standard learning while bridge builders advance players to sentence structure. Some modes have time limits while others incorporate sound into the mix. Two stand out modes called write cards and fading characters, have similar gameplay (start with fading first) where players learn to draw characters through repetition and example.
The audio elements are great. Players can record their voices and even compare them to a native speaker. Pitches and variations, shown as audio wave graphics, can best be heard when wearing earphones, so players optimize their learning and performance when trying out their newfound knowledge out in the field. The entertaining mini game modes include fill-in-the-blank, memory, hangman, word searches, kanji writing, and the carnival-like hit a word where you quickly hit the correct word – great for building vocabulary. This recommended game series already has French and Spanish predecessors, with My Japanese Coach coming out this October.
My Chinese Coach is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB.