Hey, Pardner….hmmm or is it Partner? No more scratching your chin in wonderment of how to spell something correctly after playing Artgig Apps' newest entry into the App World with Mystery Word Town – Sight Word Spelling. Artgig Apps have always produced the highest quality apps that engage through cleverly designed gameplay, and Mystery Word Town does not disappoint. It’s a mix of western style fun and silliness but also has serious educational chops. It seems the Huevos Rancheros Gang is hiding out in Word Town and the Sheriff and his trusty deputy – a ghost, need help finding all of these notorious gang members and the gold. Gameplay is divided into missions of searching the town, one dwelling at a time for notorious crooks and they're left behind golden swag by correctly spelling a word. The correct spelling gains players access to go from one room or space to another in each of the dwellings. In every room or space, letters are collected and added to your “tool belt.” These letters can be swapped out for other letters as needed. The mission ends when all rooms have been checked and all the gold recovered. By arranging the game around one mission at a time, it gives kids the chance to not only see that “work” has a definite beginning and end, but also gives them time to process what they are learning into manageable chunks. A lot of times, kids see a demand or work as endless, and by playing games such as this, they begin to see there are measures to success. Finishing takes on a multilayer timeline, driven by their own pace, and this helps kids learn to manage their time and as well as enjoy the process. Let’s first look at all the varied settings. There is room for multiple players to set up “an account”. Kids make their avatar by swiping through facial characteristics on the home screen, and the child also selects difficulty level under the skills section. This helps kids not only personalize the game to their abilities but also make a commitment to play. Skill levels are divided into 3 and kids can choose whether or not to have an audio prompt for the spelling word. It’s a little harder to not have the audio prompt as in the upper levels as several letters are missing. The first level will give a child visual hints if struggling and the second skill level will accept an appropriate word…C_T could be CUT or CAT. In the Help section, gameplay and strategy tips are provided, reassuring kids that there will be a challenge, but also support when needed. Artgig Apps stand behind their work, and always have a child’s safety in mind as well as wanting to make a child’s experience meaningful. They welcome feedback and respond quickly to any thoughts or concerns. The ability to manage users or give feedback is a gated parental key. I love all the details in the rooms. The art is a mix of expertly rendered 3D objects and in a Cartoon-like atmosphere, that makes the game real but playful too. There are also lots of visual and word plays in the rooms if you really look. A favorite is the writing on the schoolhouse chalkboard…”I will not put cowpies under the teacher’s desk”…that can set kids off in a tumbleweed’s turn of giggles.The portraits on the wall talk if tapped and enrich the story line. Crawling up ladders and going in and out of windows are good places to search, as well as revisiting rooms for needed letters if you don’t have the wanted one. Once a crook is captured and the gold from a particular dwelling is recovered, you can read all about it in the Town News. The Town News also helps to act as a reinforcer to let kids know who has been caught and how many you still need to find. If I were to have a wish list it would include either an in app add on or an on the web site ability to download extensions for play from parents or educators such as worksheets to add in the spelling words into sentences or silly stories, coloring pages, word find activities, etc. This would help with integrating the material into everyday life and use.
Written by Jo Booth
Jo Booth has been an Occupational Therapist for over 30 years and currently works in Pediatrics with early intervention. She sees kids newly diagnosed on the spectrum as well as medically fragile kids. She loves to move, explore and play every day; so that “her kids” grow up to be healthy independent learners.