If you grew up at just the right time in the 1980’s, you no doubt remember sitting around the one lone computer in your fourth grade classroom, waiting for your turn to play Reader Rabbit or Math Blasters. Now, thanks to developer Peter Groeneweg, all the fun of edutainment is back! Unlike the 80’s though, this time we mean it. Number Ninjas is fun, educational, and puts out math skills to the test.
Number Ninjas takes a very over-the-top, Rambo style experience to basic mathematics. Each level combines two key elements: platforming and math equations. You’ll start each level as a number. Armed with a variety of math operations, you’ll attack enemy numbers by throwing addition, subtraction, multiplication and division signs like throwing stars. Once you’ve killed your enemy, the math part of the game comes into play.
Each level in Number Ninjas plays out like a math puzzle. You’ll be given an equation at the bottom of the screen. To complete the level you’ll need to attack other numbers with the correct operations to solve the equation. For example, a level may ask you to perform the following task; 1=6. As the number 1, you’ll first encounter a number 9 patrolling the area. Taking him out with multiplication will turn you into a number 9. Next you’ll encounter the number 3 – hit him with a subtraction sign and you’ve just become a 6, solving the puzzle.
The levels get larger than you might expect, with a wide variety of numbers populating the area. Since you’ll have to deal with each, it may take you a good number of tries to determine the right formula to solve the equation. Add into that the fact that a level will end should another number spot you, and you’ve got a recipe for “try and try again” gameplay.
In terms of layout, our only complaint is that it was sometimes too easy for the other numbers to spot us. That and some of the levels were too large to fit all of the hazards onto the screen, which sometimes lead to getting spotted by enemy numbers the moment they entered the screen. Knowing we would have to repeat a level to solve the formula was one thing. Having to repeat it because we were seen was another. While we can appreciate the addition of a stealth element, it’s just not something that enhances the gameplay here.
Visually the game does a great job of presenting a fun and larger than life sense of commando mathematics. Numbers and platforms are all portrayed in silhouette, with brightly colored backgrounds depicting what appears to be a lush jungle setting. The only color you’ll see on the characters are the red and blue bandanas, blowing in the wind. Again – the game echoes the feel of a classic Rambo action romp.
With all of the great hipster style and presentation, we were really bummed to find that Number Ninjas was completely lacking in the sound department. The game featured neither music nor sound effects, keeping things disappointingly quiet. A sneaky action-movie soundtrack and some over the top ninja attack noises would have really helped round out the package. Instead, the total lack of audio just stuck out like a sore thumb.
Despite a couple of nagging annoyances, Number Ninjas is a game that accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do: make math fun. Whether you’re looking to keep your kids on the forefront of cool educational software or just looking to sharpen your subtraction skills, Number Ninjas is a free browser game you won’t want to miss.