Influent Review – MOUSE n JOYPAD

Influent Review

 

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One of the more important aspects of our society are the languages we speak in. Nowadays, communication is everything, and it’s only natural that people try and learn as many tongues as they can. Sadly, the process isn’t quite as simple as we’d like it to be, and alternatives to ordinary studying are sought out quite often. It was only a matter of time before some indie devs caught wind of this and tried to digitalize the learning process – or at least a part of it. This is where Influent comes in. Developed by a really tiny dev team with lots of willpower, Influent serves as a great starting point for any discerning rookie language learner. That is, if the language you’re trying to get into has already been covered and released into the game.

 

There’s a cat somewhere in this picture. Doing cat things.

he gameplay works on a concept not unlike that of using flash cards to remember stuff. You walk around a small condo filled with all kinds of objects and click around to see how the translated word sounds in target language. A fairly simple set-up, really, but it does what it sets out to do perfectly. You’d be wrong to expect Influent to teach you all there is to know about any given language – it’s a starter kit, so to say, and will provide you the basics of how things are supposed to sound like. Do note, however, that there’s absolutely no grammar involved, so additional learning is absolutely necessary if you want to use the words you’ve learned in a properly formed sentence. Starting the game, you take control of the game’s protagonist and are immediately ready to start clicking on things to learn what their *insert language name here* counterparts sound and look like.

As you walk around Andrew’s (the protagonist) apartment, you can click on each and every visible object to hear its pronunciation. From what I gather, these are well-read and sound nice, which makes the learning process that much faster and simpler. By clicking on objects, you “memorize” their pronunciations and eventually unlock “masteries” that you can later brag around with, I guess. As you collect and list the objects in your target language, you unlock Time Attack and Fly By modes, both of which test your reading and listening skills, according to your selected preferences. Time Attack needs no further explanation, but Fly By is a little different. The player takes control over a small flying drone and has to shoot lasers at the given word. Nothing too special, no, but a fun way to memorize words nonetheless. And that’s what it comes down to – Influent isn’t trying to teach you the entirety of any language, but to spark your interest and kick your learning habits off in the best way possible. A very interesting feature is the fact that, as you click your way through these challenges, you unlock additional verbs and adjectives for certain words. There’s a lot of content here, even though it may not sound like it on paper. Instead, focusing on a small environment with a relatively small roster of words, Influent makes it very easy to memorize all that stuff and move onto bigger things, if you are so inclined.

 

The ability to learn Latin words for modern appliances is brilliant.

Another important factor to take into account is that Influent offers several different styles of orthography with some languages. Thus, Japanese comes packed with romaji, hiragana and the infamous kanji, while the slavic languages come written in cyrillic. However, managing this switch from the Latin alphabet to another, completely different orthography style shouldn’t be expected unless you’re already proficient in it.

The game world is drawn semi-realistically, but looks goofy and loveable in a cartoonish way. Those of us who take pride in scouring for easter eggs will be pleased with the fact that Andrew’s apartment is filled with things such as Naomi Hunter’s Shadow Moses novel. By taking a relatively minimalistic approach to graphics, the devs also made sure that Influent works on a wide variety of computers, so that even older machines run the game just fine. There are no special effects added to the scene, but they really aren’t even necessary in this kind of game. All in all, the presentation is nice and easily draws the player into the fray. Most of the game’s audio comes from translations and pronunciations – I’ve played with German, Latin and Spanish languages loaded and they all sound perfectly fine. It’s not some especially high-quality stuff, but it’s more than enough to teach any listener what each word should sound like.

To summarize, Influent is a great tool to enhance the beginning of your language learning experience. It makes you memorize words by using a friendly environment in conjunction with several other systems that play towards making us click on things – something we’re very much inclined to do. Memorizing words with Influent is faster than it would be using the other, “ordinary” techniques, thus making it the most efficient and fun word learning tool I’ve ever gotten across of. We can only hope the devs continue to flesh out the experience and perhaps even add more locations for Andrew to explore. With all that in mind, I can recommend Influent to anybody who’s trying to come to grips with a language he’s starting to learn. If you decide to make a switch or continue your learning process with another tongue, you can upgrade your version of Influent for only five bucks. However, you shouldn’t expect this game to teach you everything there is to learn in any given tongue – that’s definitely not what it set out to do.

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