When the cool and awesome folks at Gamezebo (I didn’t overdo that, I hope?) asked if I wanted to review Brain Challenge, I jumped at the chance to turn my flabby brain into a lean thinking machine, since all that yellow tennis ball hitting and doing strange yoga moves won’t do much for the little gray cells.
First, a disclaimer: I’m not a scientist or a doctor, so I couldn’t attest whether these games truly improve brain function.
Well, lucky me. I get a choice of two doctors to guide me through my brain fitness adventures. I rarely meet a character I like in these brain games and Brain Challenge continues to prove me right. They just love to emphasize your wrong answers and make snide comments. They share trivia knowledge and pose questions for you to answer, but seem just as aggravating as they do motivational.
I begin my exercise routine with a test to determine my baseline. That number is <gibberish>. Well, if this game truly makes a difference in brain fitness, then it says I need serious help. I embark on my brain training adventures divided into five categories: Logic, math, memory, visual, and focus. Each contains multiple games, which also need unlocking. How? When? Who knows? I haven’t figured out the magic formula for unlocking games.
Some games are fun while others drive me batty. Like the good athlete, I practice all of them several times a day. It’s working as my scores improve daily. I don’t think I can come up with a new theory or solve problems I couldn’t before. I do, however, believe that our brains need us to do new things to keep it strong. I don’t do Sudoku in the morning anymore since that’s not a new thing. Brain Challenge games give my brain a new workout.
Another type of training available is Stress Training. The game tries to stress you out with distractions such as bugs crawling around or lines moving down while you figure out the answers. Stress games fall in two categories: Multitask and physical. After four days of playing the game, I still only have one stress game unlocked. I imagine the games I play during the Stress Test are the ones that will appear whenever the game feels like unlocking them.
Brain Challenge also offers Kids Test consisting of the same games adapted for kids. At first, my nine-year-old rejected my offer to let him use my computer (unusual, believe me). After watching me, he took over and enjoyed playing the games.
Tiger Ride is the only stress game I can play and I abhor it. It requires "pedaling" the tiger’s bike to keep a truck from running over the poor thing. Pedal by repeatedly clicking the left and right arrows or the left and right mouse buttons. Then, the other hand needs to solve the puzzles using assigned keys or the mouse. Obviously, you can’t use the mouse for both activities. Well, my fingers have had it with pedaling on the arrow buttons. So I try the mouse for pedaling and use the keys to answer the puzzles. It takes too long. First, you have to click to select the answer and click another button to "enter" the answer. I know multitasking like this gives your brain a super workout, but this hurts. I wonder if I can file worker’s comp.
The games range from figuring out the heaviest object and counting up or down around a maze of numbers to identifying the highest bouncing ball and determining the next pattern in a set. Also included are three creative mode activities. One is Doodle, which is exactly that — draw pictures with different colors, and another lets you create a maze for others to play.
Every time I start the game, I cringe in preparation for introductory sound effects that seem louder than a movie theater’s speakers. Though I turn off the audio, the sound booms upon starting up Brain Challenge. My poor dog stands at attention wondering what interrupted her nap. The game’s audio fares no better, so I mute the game for good since it has no volume control – just on or off. The audio doesn’t affect game play, however – just puts you at risk for a headache.
Brain games have been a hot little number in the video games industry for a couple of years, drawing in baby boomers and seniors. Brain Challenge does a decent job of working your brain out. Those who’ve played brain games on the Nintendo DS and elsewhere won’t find anything new – just different. Anyone can play these games and practicing improves your test score, but I can’t guarantee you’ll get smarter.