Review by John Sooja, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2016
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DEVICE 6

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Inventive, interactive short story puzzles, scares, and delights

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • English Language Arts
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
8-12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (1 Review)

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Pros: Interactive reading experience encourages close reading.

Cons: The narrative is a little too vague, and the ending may not satisfy everyone.

Bottom Line: Utterly unique, short experience packed with exploration, mysteries, and surprises, but will take inventive teacher to wrap around.

DEVICE 6 would certainly spice up any English literature, creative writing, or game development course, offering a rare narrative experience for students to ponder. As a discussion piece, students can learn about metafiction, theories of agency, and "concrete poetry." Students could also discuss how interactivity in digital games may be less volitional than we would like to think. What was the reason for the surveys after each chapter? If players' answers don't matter, what does that suggest? Why make a game about player agency? Outside the classroom, teachers could offer this reading experience to promote general reading comprehension and the applying of information. Teachers might also encourage students to dive into the world of interactive fiction (IF) and experiment with creating their own playable stories using a tool such as Twine.

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DEVICE 6 is an interactive short story app that features puzzles and riddles. Players follow the heroine, Anna, who wakes up in what appears to be an unfamiliar and abandoned castle, with only faint memories of a creepy doll in her head. Players navigate Anna through the story by scrolling left, right, up, and down -- which often requires rotating the device. The text scrolls itself, making it easy to visualize Anna walking down a dark hallway. This creates an awareness of physicality and space, and it's all wonderfully presented in '60s visual style and flair. By solving puzzles, players get to continue reading, which is the same as getting to move Anna to new areas. The puzzles themselves can be difficult, but solutions are never not readily accessible, somewhere, in the text, pictures, recordings, or occasional video clips. This encourages close reading and examination of the text and specific words and phrases that might later prove to be clues. The story and atmosphere are decidedly horror-themed, but there is no gore, and the violence that is present is limited. There are some minor references to violence and a more than mild death scene at the end of the story. Expect some references to tobacco in an uncritical light.

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The inventive textual exploration alone makes this game well worth playing. DEVICE 6 successfully marries the act of reading with navigation, and the text becomes a literal map of the castle. This all makes playing the game enjoyably immersive. The mystery is intriguing, and, while creepy, it's not so horrifying that most learners won't be able to handle it. The puzzles are the meat of the game, and they require intensive close reading of the text. Side stories include valuable information and clues, and often clues only become evident after thorough exploration of the words. The puzzles are challenging but fair; however, there's little in-app support. For that, students will need to check out the written and video walkthroughs available online. There are different textual pathways to explore and unlock, pictures and recordings and clues to decipher, and riddles to ponder. While DEVICE 6 isn't an instructional tool (it's literature, after all), it's nevertheless worth the short experience, featuring a rich and mysterious world and a truly unique way of interacting with text that'll definitely get students engaged.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

The slick and innovative interface make reading this short story puzzler incredibly satisfying. Some of the puzzles may prove difficult for younger players.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

The learning value here is much like any other short story -- textual analysis, reading comprehension, and the like. However, the embedded puzzles also weave in some light deduction and logic and encourage close reading.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

No in-game support, but plenty of online walkthroughs are available, along with various fan interpretations of the story.


Common Sense Reviewer
John Sooja Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Anuar Andres L. , Press
Press
An amazing experience that combines a written novel with images, video and sounds + puzzles.

There are a number of games released in the past few years that have interesting narratives and might be great learning experiences. Doki-Doki Universe is one, Gone Home is another. The Stanley Parable has also been getting a lot of attention. Device 6 is a great way to get people to read a mystery novel, even those that don’t enjoy reading. The puzzles and the surreal aesthetics will engage players and encourage them to continue reading.

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