Game: Kana Quest
Genre: Learning, Language, Educational
System: Switch (also available for Steam (Windows only), PS4, PS5, Xbox One X, and Xbox Series S/X)
Developer|Publisher: Not Dead Design | Whitethorn Games
Age Rating: US E | EU 3+
Price: UK £11.39 | EU € 12,49 | USD $14.99
Release Date: March 28th, 2023
Review code used, with many thanks to Whitethorn Games.
Kana Quest is a cute little puzzle game designed to teach players Hiragana, the phonetic alphabet of the Japanese language. Kana have to be matched by similarly off sound to one another, connecting as “friends” to complete puzzles together.
The Gameplay of Kana Quest
Kana Quest is a quick and easy little game that is in a beautiful pixel art style. It slowly introduces players to different Kana, each with cute little faces on them. Players need to move Kana to connect to those with similar sounds.
As some background, Kana in Japanese are phonetic letters that can spell out words. It’s the first of the three Japanese alphabet that kids and people new to the language are taught, so it’s a great beginning for anyone hoping to learn a little more about Japanese. The other two languages, Kanji and Katakana, are not part of Kana Quest.
There are a total of 46 Hiragana, and each of them are made up of one to three Romanized letters. Some examples are:
- り – RI
- し – SHI
- ん – N
These can be combined to make words. While it is the most basic version of the Japanese written language, there is a lot to learn here, and the lessons are great for anyone hoping to get started learning.
To play, you need to begin to learn the Hiragana and begin to be able to distinguish one from another. Kana Quest starts with three of these Kana, and players must learn them as quickly as possible. When a Kana shares a sound with another, and they are put next to each other, the two will connect and become friends.
For example, こ (ko) and か (ka) both share the “k” sound, which means they are compatible. They become friends with the little hearts connecting them when put together, like in the picture below.
Another way you can match Kana is like this: か(ka) matches up with the Kana た (ta) because they share the “a” sound.
Players have to complete the puzzles in as few moves as possible in order to reach enough gold medals to move to the next world and hard difficulty of puzzles.
To complete future puzzles, players will need to guess the mystery Kana based on the other Kana they will connect with. So if a mystery Kana connects with か (ka) and た (ta), then it must contain an “a” sound, which narrows down the possibilities. If it also matches with の (no), then the mystery Kana must be な (na).
Kana Quest is controlled with either the touch screen or the Joy-Cons, so you can play it in whatever way that you are most comfortable with.
It’s More a Puzzle Game than a Learning Game
Kana Quest is not really a learning game. You don’t actually get to learn much about the language itself; it’s more about the puzzle movement than it is about learning Japanese. However there is value in learning the letters, but it would be a little more useful if there were some additional screens that actually allow you to build words.
It prioritizes the puzzles, forcing players to replay levels over and over to make sure they do them in the least number of possible moves in order to unlock the harder levels. It would be so beneficial if there were little screens that also teach you a word or two between puzzles, focusing on actually learning to write and say real words in the Kana you are learning. There are so many easy, two-Kana words that could have been slipped in as players learn new Kana.
Overall, this game is cute. It’s useful for anyone learning Kana. However, there are some things that I don’t love about it. Its lack of word-teaching moments and its weird hyperfocus on doing the puzzles in the least number of turns aren’t made up for entirely by its cute pixel art or Kana learning.
I think one of the things that bothered me a lot is that the title of the game is written in Katakana on the cover rather than the Hiragana you are actually learning. I don’t really understand who this game is for, but it was a fun way to spend an afternoon.
Final Verdict: I Like it.