Here’s an interesting way to practice tones that should bring back memories if you grew up in the 80s. The Chinese Tipster has teamed up with Simon Braunstein of Catlard.com to bring us Tone-Fu, an 8-bit style game for practicing Mandarin tones that’s reminiscent of the classic NES game, Kung-Fu.
The game, which is available to play on the web (Unity3 plugin required), as well as Mac and PC downloads, has 3 modes of play – The first, Tones, involves listening to Chinese words and selecting the correct tone. The second, Translating, takes it one step further by having you listen to a Chinese word and selecting the translation of the word you are hearing. For instance, you might hear “chi1” and have to select “eat” from the 4 choices. The third mode is a combination of the two.
The aim of the game is to beat the master – If you get a question right you move closer to the master, if you get a question wrong you move downward, eventually through the floor. Between stages there’s also a bonus round that involves either eating food, or kicking away weapons and bad items, the more you get right the higher your bonus multiplier.
While playing I did notice a few bugs, sometimes stopping the game from continuing and forcing me to close and restart. During a game two words might be spoken at once, or sometimes the timer ran out before a word had been spoken. Bonus round items also sometimes became stuck in mid-air, or stages loaded without any text. Bugs aside, the game is quick to load and the stages are small, so it’s no big deal to restart now and again – though it is annoying when a bug spoils your perfect round.
I love it that something like this exists, and it makes a refreshing break from most of the Pinyin and tone games/tools which seem to consist of cutesy bears or similar. I hope the developers can release an updated version with more words and new features.