Review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2018
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MasterSwords

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Scrabble meets Choose Your Own Adventure in a dueling of (s)words

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • English Language Arts

Skills
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
4–8
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Pros: Students will stretch their spelling skills and vocabulary.

Cons: Unless students play against friends or the online community, it's not very challenging.

Bottom Line: While it could use more gameplay variety, students will enjoy this game's Adventure Time-inspired take on vocabulary and spelling.

When you think of "fighting words," this probably isn’t what you had in mind, but it fits perfectly for a game that relies on puns, silly insults, and cartoon violence to make spelling and vocabulary engaging. To put MasterSwords to use, give students a chance to choose their own adventures as they travel through different kingdoms, battling opponents and collecting swords by creating words from letter tiles. Let students exercise their creativity by predicting insults and barbs using words they've formed in the game, or pair them up to play against one another to see who can come up with the most original words. Let students form their own silly puns to promote collaboration and communication, or challenge groups of students to come up with the most points possible from a given set of letters.

Although it's possible to promote vocabulary acquisition skills and words in context with each unscrambling, teachers won't want to rely on this game too much for learning, since it can get somewhat monotonous, and there's no guarantee students are actually engaging much with the words.  Still, students will enjoy the challenge of forming new words and collecting gear along the way!

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In the vocabulary and spelling game MasterSwords, students form words from letter tiles with associated point values to try to beat real or virtual opponents. Students customize their characters (which are heavily influenced by Adventure Time) and can play friends or a computer-generated opponent, or be matched up with other players. Students create their characters and move through different kingdoms, where they battle, creating and hurling words that have enough points to knock the lifeblood out of their opponent. For each correct word created, a silly sentence appears using the word in context, usually in the form of an insult or a challenge. Students can also tap on the word to get a definition if they wish. After each battle, there are options for what students can do next, letting them choose whether to stay and fight, shop for gear, or fight in a different arena. As they earn Marbles, students can buy gear and earn level-ups that earn more letters and increase point values, but the number of options can feel busy and a little confusing at first, even with the pop-up tutorials. Ultimately, students want to collect enough objects and win enough battles to win all seven swords.

Teachers should know that some of the sentences do not use the words correctly, and there's some cartoon violence. Plus, the letters and point values are inconsistent against the virtual opponent, who consistently forms better words for fewer points. Still, students will enjoy the silliness of a game where their words truly have power.

With some deliberate implementation, MasterSwords could have a positive impact on students' vocabulary and spelling skills. The game is fun, and students will like the silliness of the insults along with the opportunities to complete quests and gather objects, bling, and swords along the way. The silly jokes and puns will appeal to upper elementary and middle school students, especially those who enjoy wordplay.

There's also the potential for MasterSwords to encourage reluctant readers to engage. It doesn't have a ton of text, so students who resist reading or who struggle with long passages can get some good practice in, with sophisticated words and sentence structure thrown in from time to time, especially if teachers take the time to facilitate supplemental activities that extend learning beyond the game. Students will also be excited by the options to choose where to go next in the game, making this a fun way to improve reading comprehension without the skill and drill that often accompanies such work. Since students can play others online or invite friends, teachers will want to monitor for appropriateness and review some key digital citizenship skills.

Overall Rating

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

Students will be drawn in by the power-ups, silly banter, and creative wordplay, but things can get monotonous. 

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

With some planning, teachers can address contextual vocabulary, reading comprehension, and spelling in a fun way.

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

The in-app tutorials and hints are useful, but the type and number of features can feel confusing and random; more teaching ideas would be a nice addition.


Common Sense Reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Media specialist/librarian

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