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Alice probably wasn't thinking of something quite as elaborate as an interactive storybook app when she famously wondered, "What is the use of a book without pictures or conversations?" But if her sister had been reading Numberlys instead of a grownup book, Alice might never have stumbled down the rabbit-hole into Wonderland.
A far cry from the White Rabbit’s technicolor paradise, Numberlys takes place in a stark, drab world with no alphabet. Not unlike Fritz Lang’s futuristic dystopian film, Metropolis, its inhabitants are unsatisfied with their situation and set out to do “something different.” Gradually, they build all 26 letters -- with a little help from the readers.
The animation in Numberlys is superb, and the story will delight and educate children. As each letter is constructed, Numberlys teaches the phonetic pronunciation and cleverly weaves appropriate words into the narration; it’s an excellent learning tool that kids and parents will enjoy together -- even if the exaggerated (and luckily optional) German narrator can get a bit irritating.
Numberlys is listed in the Entertainment category of the App Store, but it's more a “moving” book with a few opportunities to tap and pinch. There are gaming elements, but none are very challenging (even for kids) and all can be skipped. Basically, Numberlys is all about the story, while the mini-games are more an afterthought. Kids will love it, but it’ll take more than a few “reads” for parents to get their $5.99 worth.
The app played great on my iPhone 4, but I experienced several crashes using the original iPad in version 1.0.3. Luckily, the recent 1.0.4 update improves the experience via reduced memory usage, though it doesn't completely eliminate occasional crashes. It's better enjoyed on an iPad 2, but at least the latest update makes it a less frustrating iPad 1 experience than before.
The bottom line. There's a childlike charm to watching Numberlys, but that doesn't necessarily translate into repeated viewings.
iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch running iOS 5.0 or later
Fantastic story with smooth animations. Good learning tool for kids.
Unchallenging games. Limited replay value for adults. Still crashes on original iPad.