Land of Venn: Numeric Storms is a game app for early numeracy from iMagine Machine, a studio for learning software.
If you’re not familiar with numeracy, it’s essentially the math version of literacy: not a memorization of number-related information, but a comfort with numbers and a fluent approach to solving problems with numbers. Numeracy is key to the common core approach to teaching math to children. I am completely on board with the concept of numeracy and excited to see it explored through gameplay.
In Numeric Storms, players need to get comfortable adding various combinations of numbers to hit a target number over and over again. This central game mechanic is decorated with a charming hand-illustrated set and characters. I greatly enjoy the visual aesthetic of Land of Venn; I think too many children’s games have an overly cutesy and frankly boring look to them, where it’s clear that the design didn’t challenge – or even interest – the designers’ imaginations. Venn, on the other hand, is a quirky, ugly-but-adorable place that could capture anyone’s fancy, no matter the age.
But enough about that. How is Land of Venn: Numeric Storms as a game?
First, what I liked:
It’s easy to learn, and the interface is very intuitive. That’s great. Play starts right away, and the first levels are very easy. Game difficulty ramps up with more characters and different maps while the math gets harder much more slowly, which I think is an excellent approach to maintaining player interest through that phase of learning between understanding and mastery, where practice is still necessary but can feel repetitive. Even as an adult who, I assure you, is highly competent at adding various numbers to get to 8 and even 10, I enjoyed the game, especially the whimsical characters.
What I didn’t like:
There are a couple of technical, but significant, issues with gameplay. Once players reach the levels where 8 is the magic “bad energy” number to add up to, things get busy and it’s very easy to lose the level even when doing everything right. This happens in a couple of ways:
Here, you can see that one of the bad bokkenriders has arrived at the pool of juice that the player has to protect. It doesn’t take the bokkenriders long to drink it all, and when that happens, the level is lost. But if the bokkenrider is standing right in front of your giant fruit dude, you can no longer see the number over his head that lets you determine who to join him up with in order to destroy him in a crazily-satisfying cartoon explosion. That’s pretty annoying.
But even more annoying is what’s happening here. The bokkenriders’ numbers appear to be generated randomly, and the time interval between one bokkenrider’s arrival and the next also varies considerably. So you can find yourself with several bokkenriders slurping away at your magic juice and no way to get rid of them, because they don’t add up to your bad energy number. Even having a juice reserve (purchase drops with your accumulated points in the wizard store) won’t save you when the timing isn’t right. While you wait for another bokkenrider to show up, you lose the level. Very annoying. I tired of this about halfway through the second landscape, and put the game down.
Overall I find Numeric Storms promising, but this isn’t the first game in the Land of Venn series. Given that, the team at iMagine Machine could stand to polish up the play issues so that the gameplay experience matches the high quality of the concept and graphics.
I certainly look forward to seeing what else iMagine Machine will bring us in the Land of Venn series and, I hope, in further original educational games.