Numberlys, by Moonbot Studios, is one app that we just can't ignore. The movies: Metropolis, King Kong, and some Flash Gordon, are combined in a 1930's kind of scenario and played out as an incredible children’s story, where everything is communicated through numbers because there is no alphabet. Well not yet anyway, keep at it and you will see the alphabet unfold before your eyes in the most amazing cinematographic way imaginable. Just like The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, reviewed by TWA a few months back, this app is a masterpiece. Numbers is huge in scope. It's an adventure! A Mystery! A game! And a story!
The story begins with a Germanic narrator. Written text appears while cityscapes of abysmal factories, stark black and white scenes of a dated industrial city, and workers marching in step, marching in step, and marching in step, as they work the factories production line. Cogs are turning, hammers hammering, conveyor belts moving, all with creating number after number. The opening words are: Nobody had a name. They had a number. There were no Ralphs or Pamelas. Just 27. Or 6011. Everyone liked numbers. They had nice shapes. And kept things orderly. And everything added up… so life was sort of… Numberly.
We tried this app out with a variety of age groups and have decided that it has something for everyone. College professors could surely share this app and use it in many subject areas. High School English AP or Social Studies classes could use this, and delve deeper into the 1930s era, with a number of different projects. Middle school students found it fascinating and stuck with this app, time and time again. There are different levels of humor that can be appreciated by all ages, including adults! When we asked 3rd to 5th graders to play this app and then write reflections, we were amazed by the depth of their reactions. One student wrote, "The main thing is that different things are better than the SAME! You don't want to wake up each and every day eating, talking, and working the same way."
The games are focused on a collection of five delightfully crafted characters who set about attempting to make their world more interesting. Seeking something more than numbers, they go about inventing the alphabet. Suddenly the Numberlys get all Letterly and we engage in a series of interactive games that help the characters to build and shape every letter of the alphabet from A to Z. The games are cleverly designed in terms of visuals, and varied interactivity was enjoyed by every age we field-tested this app with. All the Numberlys are now able to have names, not just a number, and wonderful words like jellybean color their world. The words float across the sky and drift down upon them. The characters are jumping with joy. life is good, and as one student so emphatically stated, differently is better than the same!
Moonbot Studios has done impressive work and the Numberlys needs to be praised as a wonderful addition to the educational tools available for children on the iPad. This app may not be for everyone, but it does service the potential of a large age span. Our own children would have loved this concept back in the day.