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DS  header logo

Brain Assist

For: DS

Be smart: give it a miss

Product: Brain Assist | Developer: Sega Studios | Publisher: Sega | Format: DS | Genre: Brain training | Players: 1-4 | Networking: wireless (adhoc), on one device, sharing one cartridge | Version: Europe
Brain Assist DS, thumbnail 1
If I was going to choose something to assist my brain, I'd make it something that assisted it in remembering where I put my car keys, in not processing quite so much pain when I stub my toe and in not releasing quite so much adrenaline when I'm in a job interview (not that I'm not happy here at Pocket Gamer, clearly).

It seems, however, that DS software isn't quite advanced enough for that yet, so it turns out Sega's Brain Assist isn't actually much assistance at all.

In fairness, it doesn't really claim to be. This game promises a workout for your right brain – that's the half which apparently deals with creativity and geometric maths – but it doesn't package itself as a product that can improve your memory or reactions or anything. Instead, it's more of a gentle stroll through just ten intelligence-based mini-games with a nurse reeling off a few statistics after each one, then grading you at the end of an evaluation. In a world crowded with mind training games, Brain Assist doesn't seem to be trying when it comes to bettering its rivals.

That's not to say it isn't enjoyable, though. It holds its appeal for a short time and every one of the ten games included is a good one. The game's sole emphasis on the right side of the brain means there are no tricky school homework-style affairs – instead everything is based on big bright colours and identifying patterns. Ideal if you thrive more on visual observation and memory style quizzes, although numbers fans might find the experience a bit one-brain-sided.

The game's style in fact looks quite young. With the stereotypical stern professor at the helm barking instructions and criticisms at you replaced by a passive-faced cartoon nurse who walks you through each evaluation, you're lured into a feeling that Brain Assist will be a walk in the park compared to more serious looking titles. But the exercises certainly aren't easy and will test anyone – especially as they get progressively more difficult based on your performances.

What are they? Well, there's a Spot the Difference-style game where you look at two pictures on the top screen then tap 'same' or 'different' on the touchscreen. Count-Mania has you tapping numbers in sequence (like 1-30) against the clock, and Quick Numbers (one of our favourites) speeds a sequence of numbers past you like they're on a race track to then identify. They begin easy – two numbers moving at 40mph – and then get near impossible with five travelling at 330mph. This mini-game, and various others, actually feel more like games than any sort of brain training exercises.

While they're fun and well presented (or at least you'll think so if you like primary colours), it quickly becomes apparent that the marking of your performance seems far from scientific, or even particularly fair. Each exercise is done against a clock and your goal is to get through all of the questions in that time so you fully complete the trial. But answers are only ever calculated as right or wrong. There's no kudos for getting three out of four number correct for example in Quick Numbers. There's also no pat on the back for being super quick with your answers. There's not even any weighting for getting a really easy answer wrong then a stupidly difficult one right.

Then when you are scored at the end of an evaluation, you're told where you come in a sample of 100 people. This feels a bit vague but is also erratic – a couple of the games seem to have had an unrealistically bright bunch playing them because we finished between 60th and 70th in them several times in a row, then first of 100 in one or two others.

Essentially, fun it might all be, but when doing well seems a bit arbitrary – not to mention the fact the game doesn't reward you with new games or bonuses for doing well anyway – playing quickly becomes almost meaningless.

There are some extra play modes to vary the dynamic, like the Single Game mode which takes away the clock and gives you limited lives so you can see how far you get in one game as the difficulty increases progressively. There's also a Compatibility quiz that enables two gamers to play through the same games, some done co-operatively, to see how similar their brains are. And there's also a multiplayer mode for up to four that can be played via DS Download Play.

We ought to mention Brain Assist's budget price (it's £19.99) does go some way to excuse its general lack of depth and longevity.

But only a little way, in reality. With so much competition, it does feel like the game hardly bothers to do anything new and is instead just cashing in on the fact there are plenty of people out there who will buy this type of experience.

It's a welcoming looking game, with easy controls and breezy tunes, and it'll be particularly appealing to those who want more of a game than a serious brain training tool. But past a few hours' play it all just feels a bit pointless. All you really accomplish is a bar chart showing you how much you're improving, and we rapidly reached a plateau with our achievements anyway. With nothing to strive for and only ten games to play, it quickly becomes a no-brainer to decide just to turn Brain Assist off. And you'll find you manage to come to that conclusion without needing any assistance.
Brain Assist
Reviewer photo
Kath Brice | 28 March 2008
A charming and competent brain testing game on the surface. But with only ten mini-games and a dubious method of testing your intelligence, Brain Assist doesn't do anything to better its many rivals
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