Japanese is a hard language to learn. I know this because I’m attempting to learn it. Sentence structure runs counter to everything I’ve come to understand in English, the unfamiliar sounds of the words often provide no clues as to their meaning, and the alphabet looks more like art than letters.

As such, I’m always seeking new ways to practice. That led me to Easy Japanesy, a Japanese language game from Thalamus Digital. It’s billed in the e-shop as a “fun and family-friendly educational word game,” but I would argue it’s actually none of those things.

First of all, the game looks like it was created with Macromedia Director back in the early ’90s. The screen captures you see here are the full extent of the game’s design, and they’re more generic than a motel room wall.

I would’ve at least expected some kind of traditional Japanese artwork, but it seems the developers have plans to recycle this interface.

So, OK, the point is to learn Japanese, not entertain my senses. Unfortunately, Easy Japanesey isn’t very good for that, either. It’s for reinforcing vocabulary and recognition skills you’ve already required. So, not easy.

Four game modes are available—Endless, Timed, Challenge, and Campaign—but they’re not explained. I guess it doesn’t matter much because their differences are negligible.

There are also different categories to choose from when starting a game. Adjectives, Verbs, Verbal Nouns, Nouns, and Interjections determine the words/characters you’ll get. JLPT N1 through JLPT N5 refer to the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test level, thereby determining the difficulty of the words you’re given. If you’re serious enough about learning Japanese, you probably knew this. But, this being an educational game, a little background would be helpful.

Finally, you can determine how the quizzes work. You can be given an English word and tasked with finding its Kana or Kanji equivalent, or vice versa.

You’re then dumped into the game screen, which looks like a busier version of all the previous screens. You get your word, you’re given a bunch of options in the other language to translate the word, and you pick the right one.

That’s it. That’s the game. There’s a hint mode that slowly reveals the translation, but this turns the proceedings into a matching game, thereby reducing the educational impact.

If you’re far enough along to have Japanese words on flash cards, I could see some value here. But if you’re at that point, I think you’re also too far along for this game, which allows no customization of the words/characters you can practice. A game this basic would be better served with more basic lessons, such as simple Kana and Kanji character recognition, not full words (some of which don’t even fit on their buttons). Still, then, it would be boring to pick up and play.

Even at only $2.99, you’re better off making your own flash cards.