perjantai 13. toukokuuta 2011

REVIEW - Mickey's Adventures in Numberland (1994)

GENRE(S): Edutainment
RELEASED: March 1994
DEVELOPER(S): Beam Software
PUBLISHER(S): Hi Tech Expressions

I guess Nintendo didn't have much 8-bit games to stamp their Seal of Quality on in 1994, so early on in the year, Mickey's Safari in Letterland got a thematically consistent sequel in Mickey's Adventures in Numberland. Unlike its useless predecessor and Hi Tech's even more useless 16-bit interlude Mickey's Ultimate Challenge, Numberland is actually half-decent, both as a game and an educational product.

Apple polishing time

That car looks evil.
Unlike Letterland, Numberland actually has a very clear plot. Pete has stolen all of Number City's magic number molds from 1 to 10, and Sheriff Donald is quite upset. He sends Mickey to collect these molds from all around the county and to find Pete's hideout.

The graphics are once again appealing to a very young audience, and it's a lot more colourful than the previous game. The music actually isn't from the bottom end, there's even one quite good track here, namely the theme song of Pete's hideout. Wonder where they stole that from. The voice samples are just as annoying as before.

Mickey's Adventures in Numberland resembles its predecessor in many, many ways, but a) it's more of a real game, and b) its educational features are actually valuable to the very same target audience of kids from three to six years of age. There are distinct differences between the difficulty levels. The Normal difficulty level is for the youngest players. You can't lose a life, enemies can't harm you, and your only real goal is to get to the end of the stage. The stage ends with a very simple math "problem" - a chain of numbers you need to complete. For example, 1-2-3 are your given numbers, and above you have 5-4-6 at your disposal. You need to place them in a proper order, in consistency with the given chain.

However, in Super Advanced mode (I didn't try the middle one) you can lose lives if you mess with enemies too much, and you need to find the number you are given when you enter the stage to simply make it out of there. Replacing the simple chain of numbers is a basic, simple math question such as 6 + 5 = ?, with a multiple choice answer.

In Super Advanced, you have gum balls to use as projectiles against enemies. There are also these mobile boxes which have numbers ticking on them constantly. If you manage to step on the box when it shows the number you're after, you get bonus stars. In the end of the level, your remaining bubblegum and collected stars are added up in an educational fashion. On the easiest difficulty level, the boxes don't move and they only show the number you've come for.

That's just about the scariest incarnation of
Donald Duck I've ever seen.
Numberland makes good use of simple math problems for pre-schoolers, it's too bad that the problems and their results repeat themselves a whole lot. As a game, the Super Advanced mode feels like a continuation to the previous game's training course of platform gaming, like a lesson number two: how to survive fatal attacks, and the secrets to finding hidden passages in seemingly ordinary levels. Well, at least there's some vague excitement in this game - and hey, number 10 is really hard to find in comparison to every other number! I even died a few times on the hunt for that damn tenner.

Although I'm glad it was Hi Tech's last Mickey Mouse game, I've got to say that Mickey's Adventures in Numberland is one of the most entertaining educational games I've played. Of course that's not saying a whole lot, but if an educational game on a home console can summon a smile to my face for any reason at all for more than two minutes, it's made some sort of an impact already. I might test this on my kids some day, if I'm ever blessed with those little buggers.

SOUND : 6.1


a.k.a. Mickey's Adventure in Numberland, Mickey in Numberland

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