After I wrote my initial review of the Chinese Writer game from trainchinese, the developer posted a very detailed response in the comments, which I very much appreciate. A day or two ago they released an update which addresses some of my wish list:
- There is now a choice of traditional or simplified characters.
- The game now displays the high score for each character pack in a nice little scrolling ticker.
- The instructions, while clear enough before, seem improved (although my memory of them is not perfect).
- A “freeze” button has been added onto the more complex character which lets you slow down the speed.
A change that wasn’t what I expected:
One of the items on my earlier wishlist was to be able to add your own wordlist. I had thought from the update’s description (“build custom packs by searching for characters”) that users could now build a custom pack of characters by looking them up a built-in dictionary (sort of the way that many dictionary apps let you save word lists or flashcard sets) and that’s sort of true. The “search for characters” feature actually looks for characters within the character packs made for the game and lets you select from among those to form a custom pack. While the search will show you results from all the pre-built character packs, you will only be able to select (and hence play with) characters from packs that you have actually purchased (or the starter ones that come with the app).
While I realize that my expectations for this feature were naive, the current implementation seems very limited in its usefulness. It seems as if you can only have one “search results pack” at a time. This wouldn’t be a big deal if creating the pack was easy (like pasting in a list or loading a text file), but adding in characters via search, one at a time, makes it impractical to change the pack with any frequency.
Bottom line: I should enjoy Chinese Writer as a game (and it is quite fun for an educational game) and not expect it to have the functionality of a flashcard app (where you typically can save many card sets, combine the sets for testing, create them easily [e.g. by loading a spreadsheet from GoogleDocs or Dropbox], etc.).