Forget about watching your weight and cholesterol: the latest health obsession is not with the body but with the mind, and the buzz word is “brain games.” You can add Mind Medley to the growing list of games that are concerned with the size, weight, age (or, in this case, brightness) of your brain.
The idea behind brain games like Mind Medley – a category that also includes Brain Age and Big Brain Academy for the Nintendo DS and the downloadable Brainiversity – is that by performing a series of short mental exercises on a regular basis, you can increase your brain’s capacity for things like memory and concentration.
Before we delve further into Mind Medley, I should note that the game is not endorsed by any doctors and advertises itself as being purely for fun (unlike Brain Age, for example, which was developed and endorsed by Japanese neuroscientist and professor Ryuta Kawashima.)
That being said, Mind Medley follows the concept of the brain game fairly closely. The main mode is called Lumens Challenge, where you participate in six randomly-selected mini-games that offer various visual, memory-based and arithmetic-based challenges. You have one minute to complete as many actions as possible correctly. In Color Match, for example, you have to identify which color words are labelled with the correct color – the word “blue,” for instance, could appear blue, green, red, yellow or pink. In Shadow Shapes you must click on images below that match the silhouetted shapes above (sometimes they will be moving or rotating). In Two of a Kind you have to click on the symbols that match.
Your performance is measured by a star rating (0 to 4), and if you manage at least a 3 you’ll unlock a new mini-game to add to the collection. You’ll also be awarded an overall “Lumens rating” which amounts to a numerical score based on all six mini-games. As your Lumens rating increases, you’ll be awarded new ranks like Glowing, Shimmering and Sparkling.
After each Challenge, you can see how well you performed in each mini-game, and Mind Medley’s friendly mentor, a giant light bulb named Watts, will give you feedback on where you did well and how you can improve. Disappointingly, Watts only seems to use two canned phrases. He’ll say you did well on whatever game you achieved the highest score in, and that you could use some practice with whatever game you got the lowest score in, even if these scores are only separated by a couple of points.
Watts is more helpful at the beginning of each challenge, however, where he dispenses advice and strategies that I found very useful, such as assigning names to shapes in order to memorize them more easily, or working through object identification challenges methodically instead of darting your eyes around the screen.
Once a mini-game is unlocked it can be played in the Practice Area and you can select an Easy, Medium or Hard level of difficulty – in harder difficulties, for example, memory games will incorporate more objects, and identification games might ask you to identify 3 or 4 sets of items at once instead of 1 or 2. In this mode you’re simply shooting for the highest score to earn bronze, silver and gold trophies.
Mind Medley features some cool graphical touches like the way Watts’ eyes follow the mouse cursor, and also boasts a cool sciency music theme. However, a few factors keep me from giving it a higher endorsement.
By trying to straddle a middle ground between “serious” brain exercises and a collection of fun mini-games, Mind Medley doesn’t completely satisfy on either front. Instead of testing you once per day so you can measure your progress from one day to the next across weeks and months (like Brain Age and Brainiversity do), Mind Medley allows you to replay the Lumens Challenge as frequently as you want to, so it’s simply about adding points to an ever-growing total. (In other words, are you really getting any smarter or have you just played the mini-games a lot?)
The mini-games are a little too much like school tests to be truly compelling as pure, stand-alone entertainment, but by the same token they will appeal to people who like more unique and cerebral challenges that go beyond typical mini-game fare.
It’s also disappointing that you can compare your overall Lumens Challenge score on a global leaderboard but there doesn’t seem to be a way to upload your scores for individual games from Practice mode – it’s these numbers that are the true measure of skill because they aren’t just a sum of how many times you’ve played everything.
Mind Medley is not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, but it does seem to be suffering from a bit of an identity crisis. A stronger commitment to either the brain training side or the fun mini-game side would have made it stronger.