Bottom Line: An odd combination of a fairly complex math game and beautifully photographed world history travelogue, that offers an abundance of content for FREE.
Tech Digest recently had an article titled something like “What All App Developers Need to Know.” At the top of the list was: nobody reads anything. Accurate Learning Systems should have taken this advice to heart when they created Bubble Combo. When I download a game, I just want to start tapping, tilting or swiping right away. It’s impossible to do that with Bubble Combo. Users have a choice of either watching a video tutorial on YouTube or reading some lengthy directions that may have been copied from an appendix to the tax code. Both are accessible from a Help bubble which is only found after tapping the Settings bubble on the main menu. If you insist on going in cold, you need to know that blue bubbles are positive numbers and red negative.
The main menu has four bubbles: Factoids, Bubble Map, Settings and Book of Adventures as well as the Bubble Combo banner which is where game play begins. This main page also includes a large prominent link to MathScore.com. Apparently Bubble Combo is free because it serves as a giant advertisement for Accurate Learning’s Math Curriculum. It’s a good thing the app is chock full of pretty scenic pictures, historical tidbits of interest and math facts galore, because such advertising (especially of something that is not even an app) is a turnoff for most parents.
The bubble map lays out the universe of math facts users must work their way through. Play begins with two options for simple counting; either matching numbers to bubble clusters, or tapping either numbers or bubble clusters in ascending or descending order. As players complete each level, another part of the map unlocks for play. The Milky Way of math includes addition, subtraction, negative numbers, absolute value, and multiplication and division, both with and without remainders and fractions.
Game play quickly gets tricky when counting and matching includes positive and negative bubble clusters, addition and subtraction of negative numbers, with some multiplication thrown in. Five might be represented by five blue bubbles, 3--2, and -1*-5. Every round is timed so this exercise is very challenging and would be difficult beyond the first levels for elementary aged kids.
Correct matches help harness energy which in turn unlocks worldwide destinations. The formula for how much energy is earned per round resembles something Russell Crowe wrote on the blackboard in A Beautiful Mind. Fortunately, bubble popping is just a means to an end. The real highlight of this app is the Book of Adventures. It is comprised of 99 high resolution photos of famous sights around the world. This is the first time I’ve really appreciated the retina display on the new iPad. Each location is identified at the top of the screen and includes an interesting description which can either be read independently or voiced by the app.
The Factoids bubble offers additional game play based on the locations in the Book of Adventures. Some facts are broken out into bubble sentences which users then tap word by word in order to harness more energy. In my opinion,the best game included in Bubble Combo is the Visit Five Locations option under Factoids. Players hear a piece of music and have to guess from which part of the world it originates by popping the bubbles related to the music and underlying photo.
My favorite part of the app by far is the world music included for each location. There are 2-7 snippets of music for each. Diamond Head in Hawaii has a Hula Dance while Luxor Temple has African music of several varieties. This part of the app can be enjoyed by all ages and offers a real window into different cultures around the world. In combination with the photos it makes the interminable bubble popping worth the journey.
Download today and see how many of the 99 locations you’ve visited. I’ve been to just 19, so my bucket list just got a whole lot longer.
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Jill Goodman is certain after unlocking all destinations in Bubble Combo that number 100 is reserved for Disney World, her across the lake neighbor, as it is both the center of the universe and historically significant. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.