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Classic Word Games Get Teens Ready for School

If your teen has college admissions tests looming and the studying of vocabulary flash cards just isn't happening, reach for the tech - specifically, Ubisoft's new "Classic Word Games." This Nintendo DS game actually makes the learning of new words fun.

With 14 games housed in one little DS cartridge, "Classic Word Games" packs a lot of etymological punch.

The game's philosophy is that your vocabulary grows when you learn words and then use them regularly so that they become part of your "active" vocabulary. The game maintains that most of us only use 10 percent of the words we know, or roughly about 2,000 words. The game introduces 2,000 new words to you and then keeps track of whether you know them well enough to move them into your "active" vocabulary.

All of the learning of words is done by playing games - lots of games. "Classic Word Games" divides its word games into categories of improvement, vintage and social.

There are nine vocabulary improvement games, but some are not available at first and must be unlocked. In these games, your answers are tracked and saved so that the game can analyze what words you know and how well you know them. For example, in the "Mismatch" game, the top DS screen fills with three synonyms and the bottom touch screen displays several words; but only one belongs in the set of synonyms shown in the top screen. By tracking how long it takes you to find the right word (including if you select the wrong one first), the game can tell whether you are comfortable with that word. A nice feature about this tracking is that the game continuously presents you with the words that you don't know so that you can learn them.

In other improvement games, you complete famous quotes, link words that are antonyms or synonyms, finish sentences by choosing the appropriate idiom or metaphor, spell words and decipher famous quotes. As you play, you earn stars that can be used to unlock new games.

Vintage games include crossword puzzles, hangman and hidden word puzzles. Under social games, you can play spelling games with another person, either using two DS units or by sharing one.

After creating an individual profile, the game urges you to play a session a day. A session allows you to play whichever of the improvement games you prefer and tracks the number of word stars earned in the process. When you have earned 100 word stars, your session is over, and you can attempt to decipher a famous quote. If you get the quote right, you unlock new games or themes.

The large number of vocabulary-building word games should sustain a teen's interest. In addition, "Classic Word Games" has a lot of other features that contribute to this game's ability to help teens learn new words. Before an improvement game starts, you begin with two warm-up questions that teach or remind you how to play. After finishing a game, you are taken to a Word Review screen that lets you see what words you missed, review their definitions, synonyms, antonyms and use in a sentence. Plus the game contains its own glossary where you can review words, idioms, metaphors and famous quotes used in the games.

For encouragement, the game has plenty of charts showing your progress and funny awards to make you feel good. You are encouraged to stop at the end of a session so your mind can make sense of all that you have learned. The game even offers you real life challenges like asking you to use synonyms during the course of the day.

If you are playing this on a Nintendo DSi, there are a few perks like being able to generate your own crossword puzzles when playing the vintage games. But, be sure to consult the game manual because the letter recognition is fussy.

Adult word lovers looking for classic word games, don't be misled by this game's title. This video game isn't about playing "classic" word games. This is a set of word games selected to help build vocabularies. That is why it is perfect for teens trying to prep for the SATs.

Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 4)

Best for ages 12 and up

From Ubisoft, www.ubi.com/us, $29.99 for Nintendo DS and DSi.

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