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Japanese game series adaptation offers some math learning incorporating familiar card games, but low entertainment.

Nintendo DS Review: Math Play

This Japanese game series adaptation titled Math Play (a.k.a. 2006’s Sansuu Puzzle Game: Equal Card DS) uses a card game format with a host cat character to teach players primary math/algebra skills in four main drill modes plus multiplayer.

This Nintendo DS exclusive title incorporates a simple card deck (ranging from one to nine, no zeroes here) with the touch screen fairly well, but several issues hurt this game’s potential here in the U.S.A. There are no compelling audio elements and/or sound effects to make the cat character or gameplay more appealing, just lots of text with some frustration on the side. Learning goals can be reached here, but the entertainment goal is not.

The dominos-inspired Shuffle mode lets players align cards into equations. The equation must be aligned on a black bar before completing your turn, so you can’t just directly drag the cards on the main game board. This limitation can be frustrating, but it does force the player to think the equation through before making their “final answer.”

In the drill mode (strongest of the four), players drag cards in the “proper” equation arrangement to advance to higher levels. The Nine game mode plays out similar to Blackjack. Players must arrange their deck to get a number value less than or equal to 9.  You can’t help but think of other games when playing this title because the format borrows so much familiar material in its attempt at making math fun.

The match mode borrows heavily from the Uno card game as players match what’s thrown out on the main game board. Most of all, players don’t really learn any math skills. Maybe a good mode for beginning math players to familiarize them with number values and math symbols, then move them on to the equations.

These math card games just don’t have enough appeal/interest to overcome issues. These aggravated issues are few, but key.

A player’s sense of accomplishment is seriously quelled here when the game requires players to complete a specifically ordered equation (especially in the drill mode) regardless if another equation yields the same answer. A ploy to extend game play or just an oversight? Whatever the reason, this gameplay condition can yield a level of irritation that makes players feel they’re losing actual money at the card tables.

It’s also difficult to beat your non-human opponent throughout the game, so gamemakers try to compensate with a multiplayer mode in the shuffle, match, and nine game modes. Play with up to five players through wireless connection that doesn’t require other players to have the game.

The only real innovation in the gameplay format is using the leftover card as the equal sign for your equation. Rules do not allow decimal points, negative numbers or equations equaling zero. Jumbled text may leave players lost in translation plus the game locked up on this reviewer twice.

Players can heighten the challenge with a timer, but the only real incentive here is completing higher levels (using the four save slots) since there’s no consequences for constantly passing on math problems you can’t or don’t want to complete. Younger players will appreciate the helpful hints, which don’t give away the entire answer each time. These hints also change if you select it multiple times. This action can turn the game into a trial and error situation where you feel like you’re spinning your wheels instead of actually learning something.

A step below other “brain” learning games, but a fair exercise for those patient players who just LOVE math incorporated with card games. The price is right at $19.99, but there’s plenty of room for improvement here.


Math Play is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB.

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