Buzz! Brain Bender
With Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training: How Old Is Your Brain? on the DS, Nintendo managed to hit a home run. Developed on a shoe-string budget and, although initially met with confusion by the gaming press, it became a bonafide phenomenon, still residing in the upper echelons of the games charts even two and a half years after release. With any such success story, it is inevitable that a flood of imitators will follow in its wake; and so it has been with Brain Training. Buzz! Brain Bender is the latest game clearly inspired by Nintendo’s effort, but, in fairness, it does have a heritage of its own, with the Buzz! series being somewhat of a pioneer itself in quiz-show gaming. But has the series’ cheesy host, Buzz, got enough between his ears to really test your grey matter?
Buzz! Brain Bender is a different proposition to the previous games in the series. More a puzzler than a quiz show, players are presented with sixteen challenges that test various aspects of their intelligence, each broken down into four categories: observation, memory, analysis and calculation. The clean, vibrant presentation makes good use of the PSP’s screen, and Curve Studios has striven to make the game as accessible as possible, with in-game commands limited to the PSP’s four face-buttons, all wrapped up in clear, concise menus. As a package, it is undoubtedly slick, but a game of this type succeeds or fails on the strength of its puzzles, and in this respect Brain Bender is equally robust.
Keeping in line with the series’ quiz-show roots, puzzles are fired at the player in quick-fire succession, with the time and accuracy of your answers having a bearing on your final score. On paper the puzzles all sound as mundane as you would expect; from evaluating the number of bugs that crawl across the screen, to remembering puzzle pieces and simple arithmetic. Start wrangling with them, however, and it’s clear that Curve has done an excellent job of balancing simplicity and challenge, retaining that ‘just one more go’ factor admirably. Adding to this are a series of trophies that can be earned for high scores, long streaks of correct answers and accuracy.
However, where Brain Bender feels a little muddled is in its classification of your test results. Measured in kilojoules (‘kj’) and summarised by detailing an electrical appliance that your brain could power, this proves to be more abstract that the clear ‘brain-age’ of Nintendo’s title and, although quite fun in concept, in practice a more refined system of categorisation would have been welcome. Whether it takes more electricity to run a radio-controlled car or a toaster leaves you scratching your head, and is an unclear indicator of your ability.
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