Product Review of Twisted Manor
Twisted Manor is a vocabulary and problem-solving game (available for iOS) that has learners investigating a science experiment gone awry. After choosing a character, learners venture through a series of rooms in a haunted mansion where they must with follow clues, learn new vocabulary, and make meaning out of dialogue, notes, and journal entries. Although it’s a great concept, the game is disjointed with many red herrings and items that lead to nowhere.
Cryptic dialogue with some of the characters — toys brought to life — offers some direction, but learners may find themselves walking from room to room with an idea of what they’re trying to accomplish, but no way to do it. For instance, a student might solve a clue to get a key to a door, but the door is nowhere to be found. Other times there are obvious clues that are either inaccessible or too hard to see because of the poor lighting. For example, there’s a lever lit up in the study, but no way to get to it and no hints to help learners. Things in each room flash and light up as if important, but there’s no way to figure out their meaning. So while the game is appealing both in concept and in style, it’s ultimately an exercise in frustration.
A game like Twisted Manor has potential for use as a tool to build vocabulary and reading comprehension skills. The storyline is neat — a professor accidentally brings all of his creepy toys to life — and could make for some great creative writing in the classroom. Teachers could also take advantage of the many objects and intriguing room decorations and layouts to encourage learners to piece together what happened and discuss how those objects might have significance. Beyond that, however, educators will need to deal with learners‘ complaints about the lack of hints and directions and the fact that clues and objects don’t seem to fit together in any logical way. Teachers should know that these complaints are likely a flaw in the game, and not learners lacking grit. With some additional features such as tutorials, in-app hints, a path forward, and better lighting, though, this game would have a chance to be something that educators and learners could have fun exploring in the ELA classroom.
The journal of vocabulary can provide a springboard for paragraph writing, and a more complete clues journal might encourage reluctant readers to get involved in the storyline. The basic concept — using clues to solve a mystery while characters and objects contribute to plot development — is great in theory. Unfortunately, the overall gaming experience is a dud, especially after spending multiple hours traveling from room to room trying to figure out what to do with the clues. It seems like this is a neat concept that the developers abandoned. If they were to add more hints and a tutorial, and generally improve the experience of gameplay, the game would have a chance to impact learning via improved vocabulary, reading, and critical-thinking skills. As it is, however, learners will want to find another haunted house to explore.
Overall User Consensus About the App
The creepy setting and pictures offer some instant engagement, but the incomplete experience will leave learners wanting.
Curriculum and Instruction
The journal can be a useful tool for vocabulary and hints, but without the chance to make meaning, the game falls short of educational efficacy.
There’s a lack of support all around: cryptic hints, an inability to use the clues given, and no tutorials or support make this game one to pass up.