Most of us know that exercise and wholesome foods are endemic to a healthy lifestyle, so staying physically fit is part of our routine. But what about our mental skills? Like junk food for our brains, fun diversions like sitcoms and comic books, and yes even games, might provide delicious entertainment, but they don’t always stimulate our intellects. Brainiversity, a new game from Red Sprite Studios, aims to change that.
The documentation for Brainiversity cites research that claims the use of brain training programs can have a positive impact on your mental fitness. To that end, Brainiversity is a game designed to stimulate your grey matter with 16 different activities covering language, memory, math and analysis.
The activities include First & Last, Spelling Bee, Word Maker, Sort It, Shopping List, Remember Me?, Phone Numbers, Visual Memory, Add It Up, Shape Count, Math Grid, Math Function, Alphabet Soup, Find Me, Perfect Match and Stroop Test.
As an example, Add It Up challenges you to solve as many math problems as you can in 60 seconds. Since the answers are presented in a multiple choice format, you might surprise yourself with how well you do. For example, the possible answers for 13×12 were 156, 148, 153 and 154. By multiplying three and two, I got six, and thus selected the correct answer right away. When I realized what I’d done, I thought, "Hey! This game is making me smarter already!"
Most of Brainiversity is played using the mouse. In Sort It, which gives you 90 seconds to alphabetize larger and larger groups of words, you click on the selections in the correct order; in Analysis, which displays a list of colored words and then asks you questions based on what you see, you choose an answer from the options you’re given. The keyboard is required on occasion, as in Word Maker, which challenges you to create words from random assortments of letters. There’s no tutorial, but your interactions with the program are so intuitive, none is needed.
Brainiversity includes a Daily Exam mode that records your scores in four tests, the results of which you can view on a line chart. This allows you to track your progress (or lack of it) as your skills increase (or remain stagnant). You can even compare your results with up to five other users on the same computer, making Brainiversity ideal for parents who want to encourage healthy competition among their kids.
A Practice mode is also available that allows you to extend your mental workout beyond the daily exams. The more often you take the daily exams, the more activities you’ll unlock in Practice mode.
Unlike the occasional sourpuss every school has on its teaching staff, Brainiversity isn’t grim and serious. Instead of digging its bony claws into your shoulder and shaking the correct answers out of you (like the Orwellian autocrat I had for third grade), a light bulb named Edison keeps you informed of your progress, makes jokes and offers interesting facts. During one late-night session, he even asked if I shouldn’t be in bed. Since there’s no story to propel you forward, Edison gives Brainiversity a much-needed shot of personality.
You can also earn up to ten different Stamps, giving children and other users something for which to shoot. The two I’ve earned so far are "Nice Work!" for getting higher than 90% in a Language test and "Brilliant" for doing the same in Math. I say this not as a matter of pride, but relief. Through the charts and the stamps, Brainiversity does a good job of tracking your progress and highlighting your strengths and weaknesses. The option to print out the results would be a welcome addition, though.
Brainiversity isn’t going to take the place of IQ tests or prepare your child for Mensa qualifiers, but it does require quick thinking and offers a more-than-adequate selection of clever mental activities. Its graphical presentation is sparse — most of the backgrounds look like notebook paper and the two-dimensional artwork is crude — but the developers weren’t concerned with the visuals; rather, they poured all of their energy into creating a workout for our brains.
Whether or not Brainiversity has the potential to increase your mental acuity or help you hold on to the smarts you have remains to be seen. All I can claim with certainty is that I’m tired from playing until 2:00 a.m. last night. If nothing else, therein lies best reason for you to purchase Brainiversity — it works wonderfully as a game.