Influent Review: Learn Basic Japanese Vocab Through a Video Game

Screenshot of Influent's Vocab

Influent is a multi-language video game designed to boost vocabulary. The plot is minimal: you are a scammed inventor seeking to rebuild lost tech—an amazing 3D scanning dictionary that I would totally want if such a thing existed. By controlling the inventor, you interact with items to build your character’s gadget/invention. While this kind of game might just be cute fun for a more advanced student, for lower level students at the JLPT N5/N4 level like myself, it is a good way to visually and entertainingly do some vocab work.

Influent Kitchen Vocab

Influent Japanese kitchen vocab

The Pros:

  • Easy and simple—this game is more challenging than a deck of flash cards, but it isn’t difficult to navigate. The movement is not complicated, and the clicking is intuitive between selecting (left click) and interacting (right click). Switching between first and third person is also an easy flip to allow for a close up or drawn back view.
  • Parts of Speech identified—there are also descriptions and associated action words. So if you click on a noun, it is clearly listed as a noun.
  • Useful items—the words listed are practical items that are perfect for a beginner’s understanding of Japanese.
  • Interaction is addicting—it is really easy to find yourself actively wanting to click around.
  • Voice acting—the native Japanese speaker gives accurate pronunciation. Every item has the opportunity for good practice/shadowing.
  • Memorization game is simple and effective—It also categorizes how well you know the vocab based on previous attempts.

The Cons:

  • Maybe too addicting—the clicking away dynamic of the game was so addictive that I lost track of learning the words so I could focus on moving on. The rate of exposure was WAY higher than the rate of retention.
  • Too casual—while this could be a benefit to many, I struggled because it was easy enough to walk away from the program without thinking to use it consistently.
  • Some tech hiccups—the simplicity is good but it could use a bit more fluidity. Camera angles were a little clunky for something that relies so heavily on the ability to look around.
  • Nothing but vocab—there’s not a grammar lesson or sentence structure in sight.

While the game has some quirks that might be a bit distracting, overall this game is a great supplemental addition to the avid Japanese learner’s utility belt.
This kickstarter funded project is well worth the price tag. The Japanese version is available on Steam and Humble Bundle for $9.99 with many additional language packs priced at $4.99.

Influent Japanese language quiz

Influent has quizzes to check retention.

Influent parts of speech list

Sample vocab and parts of speech list in Influent

Influent Vocab Item

Each vocab item has an audio file and translation associated with it.

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