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Brain Challenge

For: N-Gage   Also on: DS, iPod, Mobile

It's a no-brainer

Product: Brain Challenge | Developer: In-house | Publisher: Gameloft | Format: N-Gage | Genre: Brain training, Casual, Quiz | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Brain Challenge N-Gage, thumbnail 1
Q. "Why did the Ancient Egyptians throw away the brain during mummification?" I think I know this.

So far, Nokia's N-Gage service has been a thing of contrast. On the one hand, there are titles like Asphalt 3 and Space Impact, which show off the relatively high power of the handsets that exclusively support N-Gage, and on the other there are titles like World Series of Poker, which are disappointing rehashes of existing titles that signally fail to make Nokia's exciting new platform seem exciting or new.

A. "Because they believed it was an insignificant organ." Yeah, that's pretty much what I thought.

Unfortunately, Brain Challenge belongs to the latter group. While it's by no means a bad game, and certainly no worse than it was a couple of years ago when we originally reviewed it, it doesn't really compete with the brain training games that have graced the mobile since, such as Glu's formidable Brain Genius or its even more formidable sequel.

Q. "Do humans really use only 10 per cent of their brains?" I beg your pardon?

So far, though, Brain Genius isn't available on N-Gage, so if you're determined to train your brain in landscape mode on a Nokia N-Series device you've no choice but to go with Gameloft's effort. Let's take a look.

A. "No, humans actually use most of their brain, just not at the same time." Fair enough.

Broadly speaking, it contains the same kinds of exercises you've spent the last couple of years growing familiar with, separated into four categories - Logic, Memory, Math, and Visual - with three puzzles in each, available at three different difficulty levels.

To take them one by one, Logic involves puzzles that test your ability to make quick deductions. For example, in Magic Rule you're shown five abstract symbols, such as red triangles or black circles, four of which are paired off into cozy little couples and one of which you need to find a mate for by determining what the relationship is between those already matched.

Q. "What causes an ice cream headache (brain freeze)?" Ah, now I've always wondered about that.

In Math, there's a straightforward modifier-adding exercise, but there's also the more interesting Trout Route, in which you have a grid of numbers that you need to make your way around and a single condition at the beginning of each game. If that condition is '+3', for example, you have to make your way through the grid landing on the number that's three higher than the one you're on.

A. "Ice cream headaches occur when nerves in the roof of your mouth spasm upon contact with extreme cold. These spasms dilate blood vessels in your brain, causing a headache." Ooh, that's a good one.

Memory contains puzzles like Travelling, which looks like Trout Route but plays like Simon-says, tasking you with remembering a sequence of moves around a grid and reproducing them.

Visual contains Ascending, which is a fairly familiar game of quickly deciding which colour of block is most numerous on the screen, but also Tiled, which is a more or less novel game in which you have to place tiles in the correct order.

Q. "Is there a difference between male brains and female brains?" Oops, controversial.

So, there's a mix of very conventional and fairly innovative games amongst the nine available, and all in all Gameloft has done a good job of spinning something new from the aging threads of the brain training genre. And, of course, these games are accompanied by a Daily Brain Test mode, in which you complete a random selection of tests and chart your trajectory up Mount Clever.

A. "Yes, there are many. For example, male brains are slightly larger than female brains." Excellent. That one's my favourite.

But there are problems. To unlock each of the games, all you need to do is play them five times. You don't need to meet any actual goals, so progress can become a fairly flat experience, even with the vaguely interesting brain-related questions and answers that bookend the exercises in an attempt to make up for the game's blandness with garnish.

Q. "Is Brain Challenge the only way to enhance my brain?"

Brain Challenge isn't the worst brain training game, and nor is it the best. It's a fairly lacklustre outing for N-Gage, and arguably not worth £6 when the normal mobile version goes for £3.

A. "No, while Brain Challenge is a good way to sharpen your mind, other activities such as reading, learning new skills, and building healthy relationships can help."

Not to mention playing better, cheaper brain training games.
Brain Challenge
Reviewer photo
Rob Hearn | 30 April 2008
Although the N-Gage version of Brain Challenge is at least as good as the excellent mobile version of two years ago, it's been surpassed by better games since, and isn't what we expect from N-Gage
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