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Anthony Capone
20 Apr, 2008

XBLA Brain Challenge Review

360 Review | An intellectual property?
Before Nintendo invented the DS console, game reviewers were a fairly easygoing bunch. We could shoot, race and out-fly each other for bragging rights, or have a heated but good-hearted discussion about whether Quake or Doom was the better game. Nowadays, game reviewers are more of an intelligent group of people. Why, I hear you ask? Because, after training ourselves for hours on end with games such as Brain Challenge, we can blaze through the endless line-up of brain-teasers that publishers keep testing us on.

The Xbox Live Arcade game Brain Challenge is straight-up port of Nintendo DS title of the same name released a few months ago by Ubisoft (as reviewed here). Developer Gameloft use the exact same formula as last time for Microsoft's Xbox 360; players are challenged to various brain-training games with the goal of improving their cognitive abilities. Though Brain Challenge losses some of its charm in the transition from the Nintendo DS to the Xbox 360, is still fun and challenging to play.

Brain Challenge promises to improve players' brain functionality through a series of mini-games broken down into five different categories: logic, math, memory, visual and focus. You can play the various mini-games, such as memorising characters or just simple arithmetic, in each of the five categories at your own leisure. Players are provided with instructions at the start of each challenge, and having played the Nintendo DS version beforehand we had no trouble with the directions. However, if you are only playing the XBLA game, you may find the introductory tutorials a little confusing.

At the end of each mini-game players are given a score based on their performance. The score provides a general indication of your given ability, and is motivation to keep on playing. The challenges themselves are, for the most part, enjoyable. Some are more fun to play then others, and you will probably find that you score better in these.

Players can hone their skills and track progress with the brain chart.

Players can hone their skills and track progress with the brain chart.
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In order to track your overall improvement, you have to undertake the daily brain test. The test randomly chooses a mini-game from each of the five categories and then requires players to complete them all in sequence. Once the test is finished, the game generates a number that (supposedly) reflects your total brain functionality. The score starts of fairly low, and goes up by one or two points each time you undertake the test. Like the Nintendo DS version, Brain Challenge also includes the stress test. The stress test gauges how much pressure you are under, by adding noises and multitasking to the usual challenges.

Brain Challenge tracks the improvement that you make each day, both overall and in each of the five individual categories. The charts are colourful, and thankfully, very easy to understand. The tracking feature is handy as it tells you which of your abilities require the most attention. It is also rewarding to see how far you are progressing in the game.

As players progress in the game, more mini-games become available. The unlocking system acts as an incentive to keep playing, and indeed, it will take more then a few weeks for everything to appear. The other benefit of sticking with the game is that the challenges gradually become harder. The learning difficulty increases steadily, though there is the odd puzzle that will leave you stumped (at least until your smarter friend explains it).

One of the best things about Brain Challenge is the amount of mini-games on offer. There is enough variety in the game to keep you entertained for a while, especially if you are only playing in short bursts. Indeed, picking up the controller for ten to fifteen minutes at a time is a good way to play the game. As a bonus, the developers have also included a few creativity games for when your brain is completely worn out, but these are better suited to the Nintendo DS's touch screen then the Xbox 360.

The printer…no, the phone….no, the printer!

The printer…no, the phone….no, the printer!
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Brain Challenge is a very bright and appealing game. The menus and charts are presented well, and the challenges are generally easy to navigate. However, the game looks a little artificial on the Xbox 360, especially if you a playing on an LCD display. It should also be noted that if you are using a standard definition television, you may have a little trouble making out all of the characters and objects.

Brain Challenge's multiplayer side is a little disappointing, as it does not provide the same amount of variety as the game's single-player offerings. The multiplayer mode takes place like a card game – players each take turns to complete various challenges. You can use cards to make your own tests easier, or your opponent's tasks harder. Brain Challenge's multiplayer is fun to have a go at a few times, but it quickly becomes very repetitive.

The big question is whether or not Brain Challenge will actually make you any smarter. Once players become familiar with each of the different mini-games, then it simply becomes a matter of time before you get better at them. Some of the memory and math games may sharpen your skills, but does that really qualify as improving your IQ? Brain Challenge may not give you the prowess of Albert Einstein, but it may make your time helping the kids with their homework a little easier.

The XBLA version of Brain Challenge is a competently executed port, featuring a good variety of mini-games and a handy progress tracking function. However, the game has suffered slightly in the transition to the Xbox 360, with a poor multiplayer mode and a slightly wooden appearance. Nonetheless, if you're one of the few people left that hasn't converted to the brain-training genre and you own an Xbox 360, Brain Challenge is a sound option. However, for 800 points you may find better ways of spending the equivalent of $13.33 (Aus) on Xbox Live.
The Score
Brain Challenge is a decent game, with numerous brain-teasers to keep you entertained for weeks. However, a few flaws leave the game less polished than it should be. 6
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related XBLA Brain Challenge Content

Xbox Live Deal of the Week
11 May, 2009 Brain teasing fun.
Brain Challenge Review
06 Apr, 2008 A worthy intellectual training ground.
Australian Gaming Bargains - 31/01/08
31 Jan, 2008 Back to school specials.
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