"Iredia: Atram's Secret" is an entertaining video game in which you will travel through a world of magic where you will be able to see and experience sounds in a different way. Help Sara recover the flute that Kikarazu the cat stole from her and discover Iredia's secrets. Amazing characters will share your adventure. Complete all levels, challenge Atram and recover Sara's flute!
One look at these screenshots, screenshots which scream "platformer," had me purchasing Iredia: Atram's Secret before I so much had noticed the "Educational" genre tag attached to it. Iredia, a rather beautiful 2-D game with light platforming elements, is no mistake an educational title focusing on hearing loss. Sara, the girl who could pass for Willy Beamish's girlfriend, is excited about giving her flute to her newborn sister but finds out she is deaf. Soon afterward a cat named Kikarazu steals the flute and leads Sara to Iredia, a world formed solely to teach people about the ear and hearing loss. Atram, a woman who introduces herself as Sara enters Iredia, leads Sara on a journey of learning via notes scattered throughout the levels and quizzes after each level. This is not what I had thought I was buying when I bought the game, but the game is certainly an interesting experience, one which was an unexpected joy to play.
I rather enjoyed the variety of gameplay in Iredia: Atram's Secret. After the introductory level, each stage afterward is focused on delivering a message through short notes and gameplay. Sara first learns about the ear while running and jumping through a mountainous network of ear canal-shaped caves. Then she is equipped with an audiogram which will allow her to physically interact with the sounds of the world, turning them on and off as needed to solve the audio puzzles. Sara then learns about hearing aids as she must locate them to remove obstacles in her path, and finally she learns a bit of sign language to help her navigate the deadly traps which lay ahead. Sara controls mostly well but has a jump with more weight to it than one would expect, and there are parts during the audiogram section where Sara can struggle to jump to certain visual sounds. Though Sara can "die" during certain parts of the game, falling on a spike or whatnot simple forces her to resume from the last checkpoint after a quick load screen. There's no death animation here, just a simply fade to black, something I only note because there could be violence concerns about such educational games, and Iredia is more certainly a non-violent game beyond the peril of a few dangerous traps.
Iredia is a product from the Universidad Francisco de Vitoria at Madrid, Spain, and the game includes both English and Spanish languages in its option screen. The game is loaded with amazing artwork, and I can't help but be disappointed by this being "just" an educational title. The artwork is striking due to the detail and color displayed, both in the large and varied environments and characters which populate the game. The way the story is told via in-game conversations is impressive, and the transitional zoom during these "cinemas" is implemented well, giving Iredia a Lucidity quality to these scenes. The audio is great as to be expected, and though the quizzes might be overreaching just a bit, I found Iredia to be a rather painless way to teach players about the subject of hearing loss. I do have a potential concern for those who own standard definition televisions as the later stages may become more of a pain to complete as the hearing aids Sara needs to locate are very tiny on even my 42" LCD set, and the final stage in which the player must interpret sign language could turn into guesswork if the display doesn't clearly show the motions of the signing characters.
It's not what I thought it was nor hope it could be, but Iredia: Atram's Secret is a surprisingly capable game, educational software which doesn't belabor the subject to the detriment of providing an enjoyable experience. Being a game designed as a lecture aid of sorts, Iredia is lacking replayability, and there's little incentive to revisit once all the challenges have been met. That caveat aside, it's great to see entertaining educational games on Xbox Live Indie Games, and it's certainly one to recommend to parents looking to educate their children about hearing loss in a manner that will draw them in and captivate them while it lasts.