Wibbu English is a game for English learners that is currently in beta. It is designed for learners who speak Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese as a first language. The learning takes place inside a game environment where the learner takes control of a central character, Bethany, and guides her through a series of tasks interspersed with English learning exercises.
The learner can choose from multiple CEFR levels. Each language level presents that same game environment with story elements and learning elements graded. The textual elements of the story element are essentially the same; the game elements practice language that gets progressively more difficult.
Language from the A1 version
Language from the C2 version.
The game starts with Bethany being introduced to some characters, among them her Dad and a fairy called Pix. The characters give them tasks such as collecting objects and learning challenges. The game is classic gamification – the whole environment is game like:
- Scene setting interstitial at the beginning which is almost film like
- Onboarding tutorial for the first few tasks teaching the user how to use the controls.
- Progress through a map and quests which open up new areas
- Building areas for expansion that take time to develop but can be speeded up through the use of in game virtual currency (very much like any Supercell game)
- Health statistics that can be boosted through in game items
- Items to be collected that form an inventory for use in later quests
- Beasties to kill and collect points from their defeat.
As you progress in the game, your lexicon increases and is available in a notebook for review. This takes language that is introduced both in the story elements from dialogues with the in-game characters as well as language practiced in the games.
One of the learning games between the main game.
From the beta it is not clear if there will be any social elements or how much exploration there will be. The beta is solely linear with three tasks available. I am slightly confused by the claims in the Google Play description that there are ten missions – there does not seem to be any way past the third.
As far as you can go? Turning back after the third task.
Their website targets schools which would indicate there would be some sort of learning management system that a teacher could track students’ progress. This could be very powerful if the students start investing in the game.
This in in beta so it is not fair to be too critical of this. They are clearly garnering interest and seeking investment (there is a very clear request for this on their website).
Areas where the game could be improved:
- Removing the L1 instructions at the higher levels. There is no need to translate navigation controls for C learners and an immersive English environment would provide more learning.
- The target language under the C1 level is more like B1 or even A2.
- The learning games seem to bear no resemblance to the storyline (one game requires you to choose the correct letters of a word from a selection of bubbles in an underwater scene).
- There is a distinct lack of pathways or personalisation within the game. It so far seems very linear.
- The game does not save your progress if you switch language level so you have to start from the beginning if you decide it is too difficult/easy for you.
I’m sceptical about how broad the appeal of this world of alchemy, pixies and adventure will be when the English is shoehorned in, in arguably a contrived manner. It will be interesting to see how this game evolves.