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Game Info:

The Counting Kingdom
Developed by: Little Worlds Interactive
Released: August 5, 2014
Available on: iOS, Windows, Mac OS X (reviewed)
Number of players: 1 offline
Price: $9.99

Thank you, Little Worlds Interactive, for providing a copy of this game to review!

When I was younger, there was an overabundance of educational software. Reader Rabbit and Carmen Sandiego were practically household names, and it wasn't unusual to find some Windows computers shipping with Magic School Bus or Arthur software. Over the years, though, it seems to me that quality educational software has been abandoned. What little can be found tends to feel like it was a half-hearted attempt to try and make something educational – typically sacrificing fun in the process – or attempts to pass as educational by combining a cookie-cutter platformer with some pathetic trivia game.

However, The Counting Kingdom has given me hope that the trend of quality educational software for children may resume. This is a game that is both educational and entertaining – a nice change of pace from the other offerings as of late.

In The Counting Kingdom, the player assumes the role of a wizard's apprentice. For some reason, it seems that he is the only defense against a horde of monsters that have appeared, determined to destroy the various castles scattered across the land. Fortunately, the young apprentice knows exactly what to do – cast spells to make the monsters disappear in a puff of colorful smoke!

The Counting Kingdom
Highlights:

Strong Points: Cheerful, cartoonish graphics; anti-frustration feature; educational.
Weak Points: Story mode is a bit short.
Moral Warnings:Magic use.

Each of the monsters bears a number from 1 to 15. The player is given a spellbook, and three pages from the book are selected and laid out. To destroy a monster, the player needs to match the sum of the monsters with a page from the spellbook. If they match, all the monsters disappear, along with the page. A new page is selected from the book, and the monsters advance one rank along the four-by-four grid toward the castle walls. The player also may stack pages on top of each other in order to add them together, and can use potions for various effects (typically to increase or decrease the numerical value of one of the monsters on the field). The player earns bonus points if he manages to destroy all the monsters on the grid at the same time. If all the monsters in the wave are destroyed, then the player wins that level. Based on how well the player does, he or she can earn one to three stars for each castle defended. If the monsters do manage to penetrate the castle walls, the player sees a screen with the monsters flying a flag over the castle, and they can try that level again.

There are a total of 31 levels, counting the first tutorial level, spanning a variety of terrains. The game has a relatively short story mode, but there also is the ability to play a randomly-generated wave. The monsters are cartoonish and, occasionally, even cute in appearance, and the background music is peppy and cheerful. 

There is a useful anti-frustration feature built into the game as well. If the player selects a variety of monsters but adds them up incorrectly – in other words, selects the wrong spellbook page – a small window will pop up at the top of the screen that will show the numerical values of the monsters and their sum. When the sum matches one of the available spellbook pages, the page will be highlighted by moving brackets. For players who have difficulty with adding several numbers in their head, this can be quite useful. 

The Counting Kingdom
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 94%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 10/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 91%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 8.5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

This game won't provide too much of a challenge for older gamers, especially with the anti-frustration feature available. But since the game is aimed at younger players, the big question is whether or not they would enjoy it. Fortunately, I happen to have a trio of “game testers” in my house that have been willing to put the game through the paces and decide for themselves. 

My oldest daughter, 10, did enjoy the game. Although some of the later levels did give her some trouble, she was able to play the game and enjoyed it quite a bit. I am hoping that it will encourage her to be faster with her ability to mentally add several numbers. My second daughter, who is 6, seemed to have a harder time getting into the game. She completed the tutorial several times, but once it got to the main levels – even the easiest ones – she tended to balk. It's entirely possible that it's a result of her own stubborn nature, but the game didn't seem to have the ability to draw her in as much as the other two children. My youngest son, 4, also enjoys the game, and it was amusing to watch him watching his sisters – and occasionally blurting out the right answer when they were trying to figure out what to do. I have a feeling that he is going to enjoy the game more as he practices his addition skills. 

In terms of moral concerns, there is little to worry about. The monsters aren't frightening, and even make silly growling sounds when they are trying to be scary. Even though the terrain changes, it never becomes gloomy or decorated with bones – which one could expect from a fantasy-themed game with monsters and magic. None of the monsters even appears to be undead! The only thing that might be a concern to some parents and Christians is that the main character is a young wizard who uses spells, but that's it. 

The Counting Kingdom is a great piece of educational software, especially for a home with younger children, and especially for a homeschooling family. It's a great way to play a game and learn something at the same time. Although the price tag may seem to be a little steep for some people – especially considering the flood of indie games on the market right now – for households with children in it, the price will be well worth it. 

 

About the Author

J. Todd Cumming

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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