Nommons: Calcuquest is a Wii U-exclusive that actually makes the gamepad interesting

The Wii U gamepad has the potential to be a rich resource for new gameplay ideas and experimentation, but too often that isn't how its used. Most of the time, even in Nintendo's most successful Wii U titles like Mario Kart 8, the gamepad is just an overly large controller that offers nothing substantively different from any other controlling device.

Nommons: Calcuquest, an upcoming math-based RPG aimed mainly at younger gamers and coming exclusively to the Wii U, is one of those rare games that actually embraces the wonderful weirdness of the gamepad.

What is Nommons: Calcuquest?

The first Nommons title was Nommons: Math Universe, an iPhone app game with colorful cartoon characters that fell into the "trying to make learning math fun" genre (remember Math Blaster everyone?). The stated goal of the developers YummyYummyTummy is to "trick kids into learning."

In Nommons: Calcuquest many of the same characters return, along with your favorite math operations, only this time they're starring in a full-fledged RPG-style console game. In Calcuquest, you guide your hero through a colorful fantasy world, recruiting allies and battling enemies that take the forms of anthropomorphic cupcakes, baked potatoes, apples, and a wide variety of other figures that seem likely to make players hungry. 

nommons-logo-02

The gameplay in Calcuquest can best be described as "a math-based Bookworm," though if you haven't played that game that won't mean much to you. To do damage to your enemies you complete math operations using the numbers available on the bottom of the screen. There are no right or wrong answers, but you'll soon learn that certain numbers will be more valuable than others. It all depends on the specific weaknesses of your foes and the strengths of your friends. Some characters gain power from numbers with "3" in them, for example, while others might be weak against high numbers.

Though it's still in development, it looks like Calcuquest will avoid the pitfall that so many educational games fall into, where they are great at the educational part but terrible at the fun part of games. Though the math in Calcuqest is aimed at younger gamers and is limited to basic operations, even older gamers will be able to find the fun in maximizing the effect of each  turn with the numbers they have available.

Math Dungeon Master

Trish of YummyYummyTummy showing off Calcuquest at an event in Boston during PAX East 2015.

The appeal of a cartoony math-based RPG can only reach so far, but it's what the developers of Calcuquest have planned for the Wii U gamepad that deserves the attention of anyone interested in new ideas in gaming.

Here's how Trish, the producer of Calcuquest and co-founder of YummuYummyTummy, explained their innovative plans:

"Nommons: Calcuquest has a cooperative play mode designed for parents and children to play together. Parents use the Wii U gamepad to choose and control monsters that their kids fight on screen. Monsters are tied to different math skills and if a parent wants to help their child practice division for example, they can choose monsters that specialize in division such as Indiana Clam. Parents can even choose the loot the players get for completing a dungeon!

Parents pick monsters with the Wii U gamepad and their kids battles them on the TV. We designed 'Math Dungeon Master' mode specifically for Wii U in mind since this is the only system that supports asymmetric gaming out of the box."

Calcuquest will include a way to use the gamepad that is smart, interesting, and actually works as an argument for the superiority of the Wii U for this kind of gaming. With the rise of asymmetrical gaming experiences like Left 4 DeadEvolve, and the upcoming Sword Coast Legends, the capabilities of the Wii U seem ripe for further exploration.

Calcuquest isn't the first game to make use of the Wii U's features in this way, but the fact that an indie studio making a math game aimed at children is able to do something more interesting with the gamepad than most of the AAA titles released on the system could either be encouraging or frustrating for Wii U fans.

Nommons: Calcuquest is expected to release some time in 2015. You can read more about the game on the official website.

For a look at another game that successfully combines math and fun, check out our review of Calculords.