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Numbers League

Score: 78%
ESRB: 4+
Publisher: Bent Castle
Developer: Bent Castle
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Family/ Edutainment/ Card Games

Graphics & Sound:

The best thing about Numbers League is that it looks like tons of fun, and keeps on delivering some nice production quality through to the end. The intro to the game does a nice job depicting the hero/bad-guy dynamic in classic comic-book colors, which might lead you to believe that Numbers League is going to be an action-packed beat-em-up or shooting game. Au contraire, mon frere... The balance of the game plays out more like a card game, very static and tabletop in its appearance. Even so, the "cards" are colorful and have this crazy mix-and-match quality that shuffles hero attributes in a way that is completely ridiculous and fun to see. Meanwhile, each character sports a unique voice that is activated when you put him or her in play. There are some cute animations when you defeat enemies, but these become a bit repetitious after more than a few rounds of play. Very much the right idea, that would only be improved with more variety. Fundamentally, the interface is bright and fun and oversized for little hands. It's a compelling presentation that will easily draw in young players.


The key question becomes whether these players decide to stick around once they realize Numbers League is actually a learning game. Author Gabe Zichermann (Gamification by Design) has pointed out that the last big hit in Edutainment was Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, and posits that teachers and parents sucked the fun out of what was a really promising genre. Numbers League gives us hope that Edutainment can make a comeback... The core of Numbers League is math, from simple addition to multiplication. It covers a learning level somewhere between 3rd and 5th Grade, depending on your child's comfort level with math. Certain aspects like negative numbers may actually be farther along in your school's curriculum than multiplication, for instance. Gaining proficiency in math operations is really what Numbers League seems to be aiming for, but with a heavy focus on fun and competition.

The basic game involves selecting a hero that will represent you in the game. Up to four players can join in and compete, or you can select robots to fill one of the allocated slots. There are multiple game modes that relate to how much variation (addition, subtraction, multiplication) you want in your game. As you begin, you're shown a line-up of bad guys, each with a single number and a point value. Your job is to draw a card and items you can combine to match the number of each bad guy; each time you make a match, you capture the baddie and his point value is added to your score. When you're competing with other players or robots, the object becomes to clear the board with the highest score. This forces you to think harder about how you can combine heros and objects to match villains with high point totals. In the end, the winner is the person with the highest score, but parents will know that they're always winning if their kids are playing this math game!


Numbers League mostly succeeds in this category, by offering a sufficient number of play modes that range from very simple math to combinations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and negative numbers. What's missing is some guide to grade level, but that probably falls more on a parent to decipher, since children can be operating at very different levels for math in the same grade. All the same, some form of a guide for parents embedded in the game would have been nice. The way the game presents math problems is a little opaque compared to how kids are used to doing them in school. Rather than have numbers all lined up on loose-leaf, players have to hold a series of numbers in their heads when figuring out what a certain combination of heroes and items will produce. A helper feature that showed a running total as children selected each hero might have been helpful for young players who need more of a guide along the way. Again, this is probably best accomplished during team play by an older sibling or parent, who can help with the running tally. The penalties for failure are very mild; there's no lost life or game over screen if you make mistakes during your capture attempts, just a news flash that your villain escaped. Try, try again is at the heart of Numbers League, which could also be said about homework, eh?

Game Mechanics:

Some interesting aspects of Numbers League include a mix-and-match mechanic when you draw your hero card each turn. Imagine a rotating dial, divided into three parts. Hero heads, bodies, and legs spin separately, and each part is numbered. If you don't like the first combo, you have two more spins to retry for a better number. You can even lock one or more segments, to try and force lower or higher numbers, or just respin the entire hero. The same basic mechanic is in place for items, where you can respin if the first item isn't ideal. Otherwise, the game doesn't use much of the iPad multitouch. The spinning we mentioned isn't even done by you with a swipe, it's all just about pressing buttons. We liked that the buttons are big and colorful, making it very simple to tell what action is required on any screen. Kids won't have any trouble navigating the interface, and the only downside of this is that long play sessions can feel a bit repetitive. For this reason, team competition is probably the best way to experience Numbers League, but it can be reasonably fun for a single player. There are options to be tweaked that speed up the flow of the game, good for adjusting the pace in moments where you don't have tons of time. Because games can drag on, the biggest flaw of Numbers League is that you can't save a game in progress. It's actually a pretty big flaw, and we also wondered about the lack of a leaderboard or achievements that would encourage young players to keep coming back. The best reason for them to return is likely to be that Numbers League is actually fun, and that's saying something in the world of Edutainment!

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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