1, 2, 3, 4: Counting Kingdom Mini-Review

1, 2, 3, 4: Counting Kingdom Mini-Review

Counting Kingdom is an edutainment that I think is meant for kids but was still fun to play through in one sitting on a Saturday night–because I am thrilling.

As the defender of this kingdom, you must fend off number monsters by adding them up to equal the numbers in your spellbook. You use potions to change the numbers on the board, freeze lines of monsters, and clear entire rows of foes. All of this is turn-based, so you don’t have to add too quickly. You could even use a calculator if you really wanted to.

I know this all sounds incredibly simple, and that’s for a couple of reasons. One, because it is, and two, the element of chance does up the difficulty in the later levels. The basic gameplay is very easy, making it ideal for helping your kids with addition or just helping you fine-tune your basic math skills. You can even combine the numbers on your spell cards to make it so you can clear more monsters off the board at once. If you clear the entire board in one move, you get a score bonus. The difficulty comes in when some monsters appear, and you suddenly can’t cast a single spell. You can only use monsters that are in adjacent spaces, and you have no control over neither the rows they enter from and nor the order they appear. This can leave you restarting levels on a game meant for children. I had to try some of the later levels multiple times before making it through with three stars, and it was all because of the chance.

Either way it is a fun learning tool for children and great to play together. I had fun playing by myself as an adult, but I also love math, so I could be an outlier. It’s cheap on PC and even cheaper on mobile, so it’s great for a day at home or a night on the go.

Stay tuned.

Losing My Balance: The Bridge Review

Losing My Balance: The Bridge Review

The Bridge is a black-and-white 2-D logic and physics puzzler. M.C. Escher inspired its levels with his mind-bending artwork. There are only two mechanics: walking left and right, and rotating the world in the same directions. Your only goal as the player is to walk through the door at the end, but that is anything but simple.

The music is melancholy and discordant, the perfect accompaniment to the somber mood–second only to these death screens:

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The controls are exact, a great match for a game that takes precision down to the millisecond. These smooth controls allow for a steep difficulty curve halfway through this interactive demonstration of Escher’s theories. In the third chapter, you invert colors at will, affecting what you can and cannot touch; this isn’t the most complicated though. The real trouble is “the veil”. Entering this area flips the entire world on its axis–literally. This is where my brain shut down.

If you missed my earlier ramblings about physics-based mechanics, read here. I won’t rehash it, but, in summary, I can usually figure out what to do in theory; my difficulty is in the execution. My spatial reasoning is far from my strength, but this one takes it further. Once you get into the later chapters, not only do you have to keep track of where you and your enemies will fall depending on the way you rotate, but you have to know individual objects’ center of gravity; that’s something I could not begin to comprehend.

I wanted to love this game. Between my lifelong passion for brainteasers and optical illusions, the subject alone gravitated me towards The Bridge. But once the game went from letting me play through trial and error while admiring the artwork to demanding complex and precise solutions, the fun leaked out of the experience. I can admire a game for its message, educational value, and style with no effort whatsoever. Traditional fun does not always have to play a part in my reasons for trying. Is reading fun because of the scientific process of recognizing letters and transmitting messages to the brain or because of the subject you take away in the end? As long as the game does not overstay its welcome or let frustration outweigh other benefits, I will stay along for the ride.

Here my irritation tipped the balance.

For full disclosure, I have yet to finish the inverses of the four chapters, but this game is not worth two posts railing on it; it also introduces nothing new.

Stay tuned.

Bonus footage: These moons look like they fell straight out of Majora’s Mask: