Time to get educational on you dear readers. It’s my review of Influent, the language teaching title.
A Paladin’s Steam Review: Influent. An Interesting Edutainment Idea, But Not Fleshed Out Enough.
- Genre: 1st/3rd Person Language Teaching Edutainment Game.
- Developed and Published by: Rob Howland & Three Flip Studios
- Platform: Windows, MacOSX and Linux
- Business Model: Multiple DLCs that unlock their respective language. Player only needs to buy the languages they want. The rest can be ignored.
- A Press Key Was Provided Free of Charge
Overall Gameplay Thoughts
Influent is an edutainment title where it’s trying to expand your vocabulary of a particular language. It attempts to accomplish this by giving you 420 words to learn through visual learning, memorization and matching words with the right objects in time attack quizzes. In my case, I mostly focused on the Spanish & English Languages while poking in the other languages to hear what they sounded like. The only story in this game is the opening cutscene with some guy rambling on about his not-Kickstarter project for an object called the SanjigenJiten. A device that can apparently translate the name of any every-day object into the desired language. It’s a cute cutscene but it’s completely unnecessary due to the complete lack of story after it.
The general mechanic of the game is that you click on objects to hear the name spoken out loud and displayed on the screen. You then save ten objects to a list which is then used for a time-attack quiz. The time attack quiz has you matching the spoken/displayed word to the correct object as quickly as you can. Do it correctly three times and you’ll have “mastered” the word according to Influent. There’s also a “fly-by” mode where you do the same name-to-object matching except you fly around in a small toy plane that can shoot lasers. This is my big problem point with Influent.
For a visual learner like myself, a game like Influent would be a godsend if I were to learn a new language. Having the ability to see an item, put a word to it in a foreign language and practice that multiple times sounds like a good idea. But even as I sit here, I’m having trouble remembering any of the words I so-called “mastered” in Influent. There’s a lot of visual showing but there’s not a lot of educational mechanics to make it stick. I think even going so far as to add descriptions to items or using them in a sentence would have be a good idea. But the game just doesn’t really explore educating through experience or through interaction with the objects. There isn’t even other types of quizzes or mini-games to break up the experience either. It’s monotonous and I really don’t think it should be. The fly-by mode only exacerbates the other problem this game has: it’s too crowded in this small apartment. Flying around should be fun but it’s far too easy to run into the wall while you’re trying to shoot at the “target”. It also points out just how small this world is that you can look around. You can’t go or even see outside. I think that’s where they should have focused on, if they didn’t want to come up with new teaching mechanics, is expanding the world so you can walk around more. Instead, you’re restricted to a small apartment with a bedroom, living room, bathroom and kitchen. It’s a bit disappointing.
Looking at the Business Model and Voice Quality
Influent’s business model is a bit weird but it breaks down to you buying the language version that you primarily want for $10 and $5 for every subsequent language. I don’t disagree with it because I don’t see a lot of people learning more than a few languages. If you can/are willing to, I think you’ll be able to pay for it. That being said, I’m not convinced that the value is there. A lot of the different voice actors sound like they’re speaking through very cheap mics, rushing their lines and/or don’t sound very uninterested in what they’re doing. I get it. Saying ~400 words just by themselves without any sentences to go along with them isn’t the most exciting prospect for a voice actor/actress. But hearing them drone on in the same monotone voice gets old after 20-30mins. It doesn’t help that the voice volume isn’t always consistent and sometimes that volume will peak.
This game is lacking a lot of settings for a PC-based title. Your only options are resolution choices, windowed/fullscreen, anti-aliasing up to 8X and V-sync on/off. For some strange reason, Influent allows the framerate to go up to 300FPS and “maximum”. Not entirely sure what the benefit of that setting is (because the most that monitors can show is 144FPS) but it’s there. The game’s engine also seems to detect your aspect ratio and display only the resolution options relevant to that ratio. In my case, I couldn’t see any 16:9 resolutions (I run 1680x1050p) but I checked with someone else and they were able to run the game in 16:9 options as well as 4:3. It’s odd. What you’ll notice missing as far as visuals go are shadows, texture quality and other detail sliders. You probably won’t miss them as this game isn’t that great of a looker (and I don’t think the game uses shadows much) but it’s absence is significant.
One thing I have to point out: music sliders and a mute button for the music/sound effects are missing from the options menu. Look, the music is good. I enjoy Lifeformed’s work and it fits pretty well in Influent. But considering you’re only using a few of his tracks and they repeat quite a bit, I’d like to have the ability to play something else in the background. Additionally, the UI is a mess, often being unintuitive. With elements hidden off the screen and being uncertain about what we’re supposed to be doing. The tip guide helps to a degree but it feels like some more attention should have been put here. .
Influent was designed to give the player an expanded vocabulary in the particular language they’re learning. It does accomplish that….to a small degree. Regardless of what language you pick, you’ll be able to pick up words for objects from this game. However, there isn’t much to this game outside of pointing at objects, having their name read to you and then having to try to memorize that name. It’s a lot of information dumping without context or reason to learn these words. Well, outside of the fact that you’re stuck in this place and you’ve got nothing better to do. For a visual learner like myself, it’s a neat idea. Really, it’s too bad that you’re stuck in such a small place. A much more open game would have been far more interesting to explore and learn the language. Admittedly, that would have also been more expensive to make.
Without a larger world, well, then I have to look at what we have and what we have here isn’t enough for me to recommend Influent. All it is, is looking around a very tiny apartment at static objects. Where all I can do is open doors and participate in two slight variations of a time-attack quiz. That isn’t enough. I definitely feel there should have been more ideas implemented. Different ways to quiz players on what they learned to make sure that the words stick in their head. Expecting a word to be “mastered” simply because I pointed my mouse cursor at it three times isn’t enough. Influent is a neat idea, but there needs to be something more underneath it than pretty graphics and a fairly one-dimensional test.
Thanks for reading this review. Until next time!