Largely the domain of handhelds, iPods and mobiles, brain exercise games are a great way of increasing your mental aptitude and acuity during your daily commute. The arrival of Brain Challenge for the Xbox 360 introduces this intellectual pursuit to Microsoft’s next-gen console. Now you can give your decrepit, underachieving brain a workout from the comfort of your couch!
Downloaded for a pittance from Live Arcade, Brain Challenge is essentially a Brain Training - or any game with the word ‘Brain’ in it – clone, where you undergo a series of exercises in the form of mini-games in an effort to improve some aspect of your mental capabilities, such as IQ, size, age, etc…
The goal here is to increase the amount of grey matter we use. In case you were labouring under the misconception that you were reasonably intelligent, the initial aptitude test demonstrates just how pitifully underused your brain really is – apparently most of us are operating at a paltry 10%. This figure should be taken with a grain of salt though, otherwise the pathetic score earned in your assessment may send you running back to primary school, tail tucked between your legs.
Onscreen instructions are easy to follow and controls are rudimentary – even a young child could grasp them with no problem whatsoever… which is fortunate since your brain is only operating at 10% of capacity, after all. Speaking of children, there is a kids’ option included in which the exercises are slightly easier. The game also boasts a multiplayer mode in a card game format, where you can challenge another player across a selection of mini-games.
The exercises cover five different categories: memory, logic, visual, focus and maths. Initially you only have access to one of each type, but as you progress you’ll unlock new exercises – a total of twenty in all, to challenge the old grey matter. This is enough variety to make it worth the download, however there’s nothing that we haven’t seen before. To be honest it’s difficult to find the brain-enhancing properties in a few of them.
Coaching you through your journey of mental self-improvement is a pair of semi-nerdish tutors in their white coats, specs and clipboards (which means they must be intelligent… bet they use more than 10% of their brains). Your chosen guide will offer both encouragement and gentle admonishment during your quest for higher intellect. You can take a daily test to see how much you have improved, and as is usual for these types of games your progress is charted from day to day.
Like everything else in Brain Challenge, neither the graphics nor the sound offers a truly memorable experience, appearing to be little more than the DS version on a bigger screen… but this is a ‘budget’ title after all, and when considered in that context they are not half bad.
The reasoning behind porting the game over from the DS is uncertain; the main attraction of this genre is that you can pick iup and play for a few minutes while you wait for your bus. Novelty value aside it’s not something you’d be raring to do when you sink into your comfy chair for an evening in front of the telly. Even the multiplayer mode, which is available both online and offline, does little to add to the game’s overall appeal.
We do applaud developers for encouraging us to realise our full mental potential, but let’s face it; games of this ilk have had their 15 minutes of fame. Ultimately, Brain Challenge won’t really blow (or grow) your mind, but it does offer a harmless, brief distraction from the gamer’s daily grind of accumulating frags and saving the world.