Grammar Nazis, have I got a game for you. Has anyone ever responded to your text messages, infested with so many instances of "lol," "omg," "thx," or "c u l8tr," that you actually felt humanity’s future waver? Maybe a teacher forced you to correct a classmate’s paper peppered by so many erroneous punctuations that it physically made you ill. Perhaps you had the displeasure of reading an employee’s résumé that abuses the basics of the English language to the extent that he or she could be committed in a court of law. Save your contempt, however, because The Grading Game grants you the opportunity to let loose your inner scholar, ignore the constructive criticism, and condemn those writers to a life in the fast food industry.
Players begin as a teaching assistant for the insensitive Dr. Snerpus, a professor that gets his jollies from demoting students. Working for a man that justifies failing as one misspelled word in a perfect three-paragraph paper certainly seems detestable. On the other hand, you have outstanding loan payments to make, and the more mistakes you catch, the more zeros Dr. Snerpus adds to your salary. He demands urgency too, and gamers only have so many seconds to bring a person’s grade down to a C- or lower. Failure to do so ends the game and one’s employment.
Consider one-point deductions fair for such flagrant errors. Some university professors dock whole letter grades for faulty spelling.
The Grading Game covers a wide range of difficulties, identified by the standard freshmen, sophomore, junior, and senior levels of college, all the way up to year three of a doctorate degree. How these individuals passed high school defies reasoning. Common errors include non-existent capitalization, improper subject and verb agreement, belligerent spelling, and inappropriate homophones. Dr. Snerpus does provide cynical examples before each assignment, and as someone that learned the differences between than/then, to/two/too, their/they’re/there, and have/of at an early age, his threats of expulsion drew a chuckle from my normally pursed lips.
There’s little gameplay depth beyond tapping errors to highlight them, but Career mode details a creative scope of topics, such as the five-second rule, the burial of E.T. cartridges in New Mexico, Pokémon’s Jigglypuff, Banksy, techno-utopianism, crying in a BMW, and more. You must then edit three essays per subject, and each excerpt changes in style. One paper might challenge you to pinpoint the sole fallacy in a sentence before revealing the next, while another draft detracts extra seconds for highlighting a word spelled correctly. On repeat proofreads, as players attempt to lower a person’s average for added cash, the passages themselves never alter. Rather, their fonts switch, as do the locations of their errors.
Did these virtual students ever sound intelligible?
The Grading Game also contains a Practice mode that lets players work on identifying specific mistakes, and Quick Play, which presents a continuous string of random articles that ends the moment you let a student excel. But this wordy app can be as grave an offender to its native tongue as its intellectually disabled students. Several slips in capitalization were judged as correct, and the developers do not acknowledge the Oxford comma. This makes ferreting out instances of run-on sentences particularly difficult when gamers need to dissect a master’s level thesis on ramen noodles in 30 seconds or less. And sorry, European readers. The team at Mode of Expression does not recognize the superfluous “U.”
For $0.99, The Grading Game seems to be a one-trick pony, limited in talent to one specific subject, yet that pony provides a better outlet for reprimanding egregious grammar of peers than Facebook or Twitter. And for people in pursuit of bettering their own writing skills, this game realizes our day-to-day struggles on a personal level while still finding ways to be enjoyable. Anyone less inclined to pay for another text-based scavenger hunt can (and should) download the free version of the app. You may just learn something.
Publisher: Mode of Expression
Developer: Mode of Expression
Release Date: December 11, 2012
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign)
Platforms: iOS (Reviewed)