When I downloaded Moonbot Studios’ first production (The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore) I was amazed at the combination of story, animation, and interactivity. Not only did I have fun with the app/book, but I was able to watch in wonder as my nephew flicked, tapped, and played his way through the app. He loved the book. I loved the book.
With The Numberlys, Moonbot Studios’ second offering, has the company hit a sophomore slump, or is this just as magical as the first experience with Morris Lessmore? Let’s find out.
The Numberlys concept is bizarre but interesting. Set in a black, white, and grey world with no letters, The Numberlys is about five citizens’ efforts to create an alphabet. While this could have easily been a short film, Moonbot Studios took their signature talents and turned it into an interactive mix between game, book, and application.
Instead of showing someone what’s happening within the app, The Numberlys focuses on interactivity, on do rather than tell. Since this worked for them in their first creation, I had high hopes that The Numberlys would feel just as magical as the flying, piano-playing books from Morris Lessmore’s tale.
Fun for My Nephew and I
That’s what I was looking for with The Numberlys. Similar to the movies released by Pixar, ranging from Toy Story to A Bug’s Life and back, I wanted Moonbot Studios’ to create a series of interactive books that would be as enjoyable for me as they are for my nephew. I enjoyed their first creation immensely – I can’t stress this enough – but I’m sad to say that The Numberlys doesn’t hold that same magic.
Sure, the story is likable enough, but instead of offering a real narrative past the first few minutes I felt like the app was an excuse to develop a couple of poorly designed mini-games. When you go from something like The Fantastic Flying Books, with its vibrant colors, well-integrated interactivity, and fantastic story, to The Numberlys, with its dull greys and shoddy work, you’re going to leave with the bitter taste of rust in your mouth.
That’s how the book feels from my standpoint. How about my nephew?
These Games Are Fun, but Broken
Sometimes I, and my nephew, had fun creating the letters, particularly with the trampoline letters. Besides that, the mechanics, while interesting in theory, were clunky and nigh-unusable.
At times I felt that it may be because my nephew is so young (he’s a little over two years old) but then I would sit there and try to do what the application was telling me to do, like turning some winches, and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong for the life of me. Other times my nephew was able to have fun just goofing around, enjoying the games even while I had grown sick of watching him shoot ‘numbers’ out of a cannon.
If there’s something that’s meant to be done and neither my nephew or I can figure out what’s going to work, there’s something wrong. Instead of simply alienating the older generation (myself) you’ve also convinced a member of the younger generation that the only way they can proceed is to rage against the iPad. That’s zero for two, guys.
Is It That Bad?
I’m not sure how to feel about The Numberlys. Like I said above I really enjoyed the concept, but it wasn’t nearly as well executed as The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore was. Instead of having an amazing reading experience with my nephew, I was left with one that was enjoyable at first, but slow through the middle and end.
Is it, technically, a failure? Absolutely not. I liked the presentation of the app, as the make-believe voices are tolerable (which can’t be said for other imaginary dialects) and there’s a large amount of detail in the environments.
I enjoyed the alliteration found before The Numberlys created each letter, but that’s not something that my two-year-old nephew can appreciate. Sure, it’s some good writing, but it’s also a bit of a last-ditch effort to appease the older generation while leaving the younger behind.
If you haven’t read The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore you may enjoy The Numberlys. It’s a bit more interactive than TFFBoML, which can be seen as a positive or a negative. I’m going to give this application a 6, because it’s certainly worth checking out, but it failed to walk that fine line between being appealing to everyone and being appealing to absolutely no one.
As an application it’s fine. I didn’t experience any crashes or lag. Some of the little games that the app has you play can be fun, while others will leave you pulling out your hair. I concede, though, that it’s a cute application and that neither I nor my nephew are the proper audience for this particular story. Still, it’s clear that this isn’t the best that Moonbot Studios can do. Hopefully they’ll step it up for the next release.