Take a look at any app store and you will see an abundance of games aimed at the under 5s, but entertainment for the pre-school market is currently lacking on consoles.
Young kids seem to instinctively know how to control a game using a touchscreen, much to the annoyance of parents whose devices are covered in smudged fingerprints. So, it is no surprise that the Switch is home to a new game that is designed for the youngest of gamers in mind.
It’s Spring Again is an educational game which uses simple game mechanics to invite children aged two and up to explore the changes that happen during the four seasons.
It all starts off with a simple menu, where the parent can choose the language (Russian or English – the game is based on a Russian puppet show), if narration is on or off and if autoplay is wanted. Autoplay will play through the game so it becomes a story rather than a game, which would make this suitable for those even younger than two.
The game narration tells the story of what happens during the seasons, starting in spring. The player is prompted to touch the screen to make things happen and progress the story. For example, move clouds to the side of the screen to reveal the sun or tap the ground to make spring flowers bloom. Each action is accompanied by a jaunty sound or musical interlude, as well as an animation. Some of the transitions are rather slow but touching other areas of the screen will reveal different actions and sounds which will keep the impatient entertained.
The graphics are interesting; the sun has arms, the trees have faces and each season is introduced by a strange animal. I guess it is based on Russian folk art but it reminds me more of the picture books I had as a child – everything is rather orange and brown, a bit psychedelic and very 1970s. Cultural references I suspect were neither intended nor would be interpreted as such by its target audience.
As well as the sound effects that accompany the actions, there are realistic noises as well – a thunderstorm has thunder and lightning and you can actually feel a chill as the winter wind rolls in. These touches all add to the atmosphere of It’s Spring Again and activate the senses of the player to add to the immersion.
As to be expected in a game about seasons, spring turns into summer, then fall and finally winter before ‘it’s spring again’. Each season is accompanied by different simple tasks for the player to do.
There are however a few points where it is not that obvious what needs to be done next. This can be overcome by randomly tapping over the screen pretty much throughout, but a child would probably want a bit more guidance. Thankfully this guidance is available by tapping on the circle in the top-right corner of the screen which takes you to an in-game menu. Here you can select ‘help’ which places a hand on the screen pointing to what you need to do next.
The English narration is a calm female voice. The Russian narration was done by an actress and musician, Ekaterina Efremova. If you have a bilingual child, or are attempting to teach them Russian, then this is another selling point for the game. I did find that my ‘random tapping’ method did speed up the game, but it also meant that the narration was cut short in some places which ruins the flow a bit.
So, how educational is It’s Spring Again? Well, it’s got the basics down in terms of the obvious changes during the seasons. Plus, its intended aim to develop associational and logical thinking is evident. However, some of the science is not that accurate. For example, at one point the narrator tells us that ‘The sun gets warmer in the summer to make plants grow’, whereas in reality it stays the same temperature throughout the year and making plants grow is not its raison d’etre. If something is marketed as being educational then I think it would be a good idea to check that it is not planting seeds of misconceptions in young minds.
It’s Spring Again is short – it took me about five minutes to complete and I can’t imagine it will take a child much longer. However, this is probably a good thing for very young children who don’t have a long attention span. Plus, the seriously cheap price of £1.79/$1.79 means that it is competitive when compared to similar games created for mobile devices. The bright graphics, animations, sound effects and background noise all adds up to an entertaining, immersing experience which I can imagine children will want to return to again and again, and is a neat way of keeping a child entertained for a short time. All you need to do is wipe the smudges from the Switch screen…
Massive thanks to: Sometimes You
Release date: April 2018
Formats: Nintendo Switch (Review)