Little Worlds Interactive’s The Counting Kingdom is a relatively rare breed of learning game: It’s so successful at being a good game that your kids may not even realize they’re learning while playing it. It's a game that is educational -- not just an educational game.
Even adults won’t mind its numerical gymnastics. They actually deepen the game and augment its otherwise simple mechanics.
The Counting Kingdom, borrows some basic elements from tower defense games like Plants vs. Zombies and puts them in a turn-based game where 4 rows of cute Pokemon-esque monsters move across a grid toward your 4 fortresses. Each critter has a number on it, and you must cast spells (also numbers) do dispel the creatures before they get to your fortresses.
You have 3 spells at any given time. You can select all of the monsters adjacent to one another and use a single spell to dispel them if the sum of the monsters equals the number of the spell. For example, you could click on 3 monsters totaling 22, and then (if you have one), click a 22 spell to blast them off the board.
The goal is to dispel all the monsters in a wave before they reach and destroy all of your castles. Every turn the monsters advance towards your fortresses, and your spellbook provides you with a new spell.
You can also combine spells to make bigger numbers by dragging one onto another. Or you can get rid of a spell by dragging it back to your spellbook, which then generates a new spell—but sacrifices a turn and advances the monsters 1 square.
A fun way to crunch numbers
If that was all there was to The Counting Kingdom, it would get pretty tired pretty fast—but there is more. First of all, there 10 difficulty levels, the highest of which is appropriate to kids well versed in addition and subtracting double-digit numbers.
The boards change as well, putting multipliers that double the value of a monster that steps on it. Some monsters add 1 to every adjacent monster on every turn. And there potions you can use to add, subtract from or move a monster to an adjacent square, perhaps setting up a big play. Other potions can freeze a row of monsters, or even blow them to smithereens.
Making fun, educational games is not easy
The Counting Kingdom aims at building number manipulation and math skills for elementary school kids. The suggested age range for the game is 6-8, although kids slightly older than that may benefit as well. More importantly, the game is fun regardless of where your math skills are at—so much so that your kids may not even know that they’re learning.
Which is exactly why The Counting Kingdom is such a good game. It’s a good game first. The educational aspect actually complements the game play. Kids learn number manipulation skills that will help them with math, and adults get an integrated game mechanic adds an extra dimension to the game. Fans of games like Sudoku may especially appreciate it.
Making fun educational games seems like it should be easy to understand, but it’s not. Many ‘educational’ games are little more than bad games peppered with trivia questions, or elements that force you to stop having fun so you can solve a math problem.
My children’s school uses an online math program that is nothing more than math problems on a computer screen. It does nothing to take advantage of gaming mechanisms or even modern elements of interactive learning. At best, it's nothing more than an electronic workbook that replaces writing with typing and using a mouse.
I have no doubts that well-made educational games like The Counting Kingdom can teach better math (or other) skills than so-called online learning sites, and do it in fun ways far less likely to illicit complaints from youngsters.
Overall (5/5 stars)
The Counting Kingdom is an excellent game for all ages and one that I have little doubt will help youngsters with number manipulation and basic math skills. Adults may enjoy its simple math-based mechanics for the layer of depth it adds to what is an entertaining tower defense game in its own right.
Hopefully we’ll see an Android/mobile version of this game, but for now you can grab it on Steam.