Kids Learn Music [A+ Edition] is a music game that has been geared for children in Grades 1 to 4. While the cover claims ‘Nintendo DSi Features’ I found nothing that seemed to scream ‘HEY YOU COULDN’T DO THIS ON THE FIRST DS! OMG!’ There are two modes to choose from in single player, Adventure and Exercises. Adventure is the ‘meat and potatoes’ of the game and where you’ll spend most of game play. While the oddly named ‘Exercises’ is only unlocked after you’ve completed the game on Hard. (I wasn’t able to unlock these sections, more on that later.)
As I said, adventure mode is where you’ll spend most of your time in this cartridge. Here you’ll follow a Special Agent Sheep named Harry. Harry is tasked with stopping an evil professor who wants to rid the world of all music. Harry happens to be on vacation at the beginning of the story. How sheep would get a tan though its wool is beyond my comprehension, so it’s good that I’m not a vacationing sheep, huh? There is also Charlie who serves as an ‘M’ like role if we were comparing these characters to another very famous secret agent. And finally, Professor Mortani, who is presumably a very evil and dastardly character of ill repute. Though, the Professor is never seen or heard from directly throughout the adventure. (Developing two characters is hard enough right?) This is the first game in the ‘Kids Learn’ series, covering a wide range of topics there are many to choose from. That being said, I’m going to assume that the developers assumed that the player would either (A) already know who Harry, Charlie and Professor Mortani are, or (B) decided that the story would take a back seat to the gameplay and left it out to save time. Either way, it doesn’t seem to truly make a difference.
Adventure mode divides the world map by continent (North and South America’s, Europe, Africa, and Asia.) each continent has three different countries to choose from with each country having its own music game based on a type of instrument that originated in the given country. Almost all of these different instruments left me feeling like I was missing something. There seems to be a ‘Jack of all trades’ thing going here. Austria’s Violin game comes to mind almost immediately, as I found it almost impossible to guess what the next string (note) that would be played next was or to not hit the other strings while I was sliding the stylus back and forth over the string. (Giving a poor performance rating.)
Not all the games are maddening though. Hollands ‘DJ Turntable’ as well as Canada’s music puzzle are very enjoyable. The turntable is interesting as you are giving five turntables that have different records to choose from, some go together, some don’t. Sometimes I found myself grooving to a mix that wasn’t what the game wanted but still sounded fine to me. (Silly Musician thinking for himself…bad dog!) The puzzle game was by far the easiest to get into as it’s just a simple jigsaw puzzle consisting of different musical instruments.
As an armature-professional musician I came into this game with a very open mind. I was hoping that the gameplay would cover some of the more basic parts of music theory. And at least the piano game had the notes represented as well as their names. This won’t replace music class in school by any means but, if you have a child who seems to be interested in music, this won’t fall flat.
Exercise mode consists of two choices: Free play and Multi-Track recorder. While these modes sounded very interesting, I was unable to unlock them due to my utter lack of understanding and successful execution of the mini-games. Though, I’m sure that any kids that gave it time would unlock these modes once they’ve mastered the different instruments throughout the game. This gives you a reason to come back again and again trying to better your score.
Being a music game we need to talk about the sounds that come out, right? The music during the menus and cut scenes are good. Nothing is going to make you tap your toes or force you to be singing the melody after you’re finished. Personally I would stress the use of headphones with this title as someone not actively playing the game could be annoyed. This could be a limitation of the DS system or available space on the cartridge. (But as a whole while the sound is slightly sub-par, it isn’t glaringly horrible.)
The graphics in the game are a multicolored extravaganza. Primary colors bombard you from go and don’t let up. The 3D animation in adventure mode is a bit rough-looking on my 3DS. Just for sake of reviewing purposes I took a spin on my son’s DSi as well. Though the smaller screen does seem to be a bit less grainy, it’s not a make or break issue. In the different levels the primary colors will keep the younger players interested in what’s going on.
This game is a great buy for any kid that is interested in music. Be warned though that an ability to read is a must in this game. As there are no voice overs in either the story mode or when giving explanations on what the next mini-game is going to consist of, younger gamers will find this very hard to overcome. Overall this is a solid title that demonstrates what kinds of music come from different parts of the world, what instruments come from what countries, and a basic understanding of the different countries themselves.
Short Attention Span Summary:
Kids Learn Music [A+ Edition] is a music game that has been geared for children in Grades 1 to 4. Music and Instruments from all over the world are represented while giving a small amount of information on each Country visited. Colorful graphics will keep kids interested and involved in the multitude of mini-games. Headphones are strongly recommended to be used while playing this title for the enjoyment of anyone within listening distance.