(DSiWare)

Ace Mathician (DSiWare)

Game Review

Ace Mathician Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Morgan Sleeper

Smooth operators

Ace Mathician, from Flipper developer Goodbye Galaxy Games, is a unique puzzle-platformer that succeeds in combining the magic of both marsupials and maths. The basic idea is to help a friendly koala named Ace reach the fruit at the end of each single-screen stage by rearranging platforms using algebraic equations. Make no mistake: while there's certainly maths involved, Ace Mathician is not an edutainment title. It's a quirky and creative game in which maths happens to be the means by which you manipulate your surroundings. And it's a whole lot of fun.

Within each stage, certain platforms are outlined in red, and these are the blocks that can be moved through your mathematical powers of persuasion. The touch screen starts out with a blank equation (“x =” or “y =”) and four components that can be anything from numbers or variables to arithmetic operators and “sin” symbols. Once you tap one of these four pieces to add them to your equation, a grid overlay appears and shows you how it would affect the outlined platforms. Conjure up the equation “x = 4”, for instance, and they'll move to four ticks to the right. An “x = 1 - 5” will have them scurrying four spaces to the left instead, “y = 3” will move them up three points, and so on.

As in any good sandbox game, playing around with the different combinations is often fun in itself, and there's more than one way to solve a puzzle. Helpfully, the game greys-out pieces that can't logically follow what you've already picked, so it's impossible to create a nonsensical equation. There's also a handy 'don't kill the koala' alert for when poor maths would leave poor Ace either squished or stranded mid-air. Once you like what you see in the preview, you can put the equation into action with a tap, and then maneuver Ace to the fruit using the D-pad and the A button to jump. It's actually a similar concept to CRUSH3D or Scribblenauts, in that you use magic — here, the power of maths! — to alter the environment and get to the goal, but it still feels wholly original.

Things start simply enough, but when more operators are thrown in the mix platforms can shift on diagonal lines of varying steepness (“y = x + 4”) and even be arranged into wave patterns (“y = sin(x)”). As you progress you'll also see levels with two equations that each affect a different set of platforms, and enemies such as watermelon-spitting monkey turrets and wandering simian foot soldiers must be avoided. Along with the end goal of the fruit, there are three stars within each level. Some are easy to reach, whereas others require careful planning of equations or even a bit of platforming finesse. You can clear a level without grabbing any of the stars, but by picking them up you can unlock one hidden level per world, and a hidden sixth world as well.

A huge part of what makes Ace Mathician so enjoyable is the art style. It's beautiful to look at, from the PiCTOBiTS-in-pastel gridded backgrounds to the bright character sprites and adorable watermelon-chomping victory dance; Ace has colourful charm in spades. The background music, unique to each world, matches perfectly: cheery, very catchy, and evocative of 16-bit puzzle-platformers of old.

The touch screen controls in Ace Mathician require a tad more pressure than you'd expect to register, which takes a bit of getting used to, and one inconvenience is the exclusive use of the A button for jumping. The button controls are responsive, but you have to keep switching between the buttons and the stylus every time you want to either move or manipulate; if you'd been able to jump with the touch screen — or even the L or R shoulder buttons — you could play through a level without changing hand positions repeatedly.

Ace Mathician is fresh and lots of fun, so it's a shame that the experience is over so quickly. You can run through the non-secret stages in little more than an hour, though going for all the stars in the later levels adds time and often some head-scratching to that estimate; still, it feels like Ace quits just when she's hitting her stride. It's strong praise for the gameplay that, after an hour or two of maths-based game, you wish there was more.

It also would have been nice to see the more 'exotic' operators used more often in the puzzles. Making waves with “sin” is one of the coolest things you'll do in the game, but it only happens in a few stages. There's also a significant typo in one puzzle (4-1) where the “y” equation moves platforms horizontally and the “x” vertically; take note!

Conclusion

Ace Mathician will surprise you. It's a game where maths escapes its traditional behind-the-scenes role in physics engines and becomes the central, creative gameplay mechanic in some seriously satisfying puzzle-platforming. Perhaps even more surprisingly for a game based around algebraic equations, it could get by on its personality and charm alone. It doesn't last for long, but it's a wonderful ride while it does, and for 200 Points it's a steal. If you're after a charming and creative puzzle-platformer, or simply a fun, fresh experience on DSiWare, Ace Mathician passes with flying colours.

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User Comments (25)

rayword45

#5

rayword45 said:

Already downloaded this.

Surprised this got a better score then Flipper/Flipper 2. I would flip the scores between all 3, those 2 getting an 8 (And the first Flipper being a rather high 8 in my opinion) with this getting a 7. It features less content then the other 2 (although it has more levels then Flipper, the level length definitely is shorter.) and the art style isn't as charming as the first Flipper game.

iphys

#7

iphys said:

Hmmm, the title didn't interest me, although I do like math, so I might have to get this now.

Stuffgamer1

#8

Stuffgamer1 said:

"if you'd been able to jump with the touch screen — or even the L or R shoulder buttons — you could play through a level without changing hand positions repeatedly."

Nu-uh, says the lefty. Always forgetting about us...

Anyway, I'm surprised it's supposed to be this good. I, like most people, read "math' and ran the other way. Well, okay, I ran when I found out it was Algebra specifically. But maybe it's worth a try after all...

Marioman64

#10

Marioman64 said:

i was gonna pass this up cuz i was thinking "pfffft silly educational math game, i already have a math game on my ds", but then i took a review to the knee

Henmii

#12

Henmii said:

I am a bit sceptical since it involves math and because I wasn't a great fan of Flipper. But for only 200 points I may try it when it hits Europe!

Fuzzy

#13

Fuzzy said:

It has a mathematical Koala. I feel compelled to buy it. Its a sine.

Knuckles

#14

Knuckles said:

I feel sorry for the kids who get the game for the koala, and enter math that their parents might have forgotten :(

Odnetnin

#15

Odnetnin said:

@Stuffgamer1 "if you'd been able to jump with the touch screen — or even the L or R shoulder buttons — you could play through a level without changing hand positions repeatedly."

BulbasaurusRex

#19

BulbasaurusRex said:

@TinyOddy He means lefties don't have to change hand positions in the first place. They can hold the stylus and use the touch screen with their left hand, leaving their right hand free to jump with the A button.

Can you continue to manipulate the platforms after you start moving Ace? Otherwise, I don't see what the big deal is with changing hand positions, as you can concentrate on picking the right equation, and then just change hand positions once to concentrate on the platforming.

HugoSmits

#20

HugoSmits said:

@BulbasaurusRex:

You can change platform position when Ace is jumping, but the game pauses at that moment and continues when you are done moving.

so swapping control doesn't really affect your gameplay. But I can see why some people might find it a bit annoying constantly.

Odnetnin

#21

Odnetnin said:

Ah, so it is made for lefties! I totally misinterpreted that sentence. Sorry.

kuroneko

#22

kuroneko said:

This game was a short but sweet affair, glad I took Nintendolife's recommendation!

I would highly recommend this game even if you aren't very good at maths, the game explains the rules very well and it's fun to experiment with the equations to see the different results you can get. Plus the visuals are cute and colourful! Hopefully there will be a sequel in the future. :D

ChibiJib

#23

ChibiJib said:

Aaaah! I should've learnt what 'sin' meant before buying this... it's fun though! If anyone has a link to a simple explanation, please show me! (sorry if I'm not in mathslife!)

piguy101

#24

piguy101 said:

I belive there is a bug in the last secret stage because platforms move the wrong ways.

TG1

#25

TG1 said:

Much better than I thought ... started off a bit slow, but really had me hooked by the end ... 8/10 for me!

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