Dr. Reiner Knizia's Brain Benders
- Developer: Razorback
- Publisher: Eidos
I think it's time to stop with all these brain improving games. They're clearly not working. A look at Britain's daytime airwaves and post-pub city centres will tell you precisely that. We're not getting any smarter and encouraging us to count the red circles in a sea of green squares isn't going to help. It's time for Stephen Hawking and chums to jet off in that space rocket and start again.
For those of us left back on earth, Dr. Reiner Knizia makes a last-ditch effort to compete against Dr. Kawashima's polygonal might and make us think, but Knizia is hardly the most charismatic of hosts. At best, he looks like the distant cousin of Nintendo's US president Reggie Fils-Aime; at worst like he'd soothingly hush you and stroke your brow as he eased a knife through your ribs.
Brain Benders' underlying concept (because all these brain games need some kind of unique hook, of course) is a world tour of puzzles. Each of the selected countries has a different conundrum to solve, based tenuously on some landmark or cultural aspect of that place. Dress it up how you want, though, it's all the same bloody puzzles we've seen countless times before: Simon, peg solitaire, mazes and Minesweeper to name but a few cribbed from all corners of the rainy day at gran's gaming world. It appears Dr. Knizia's smartest move was to sit back and count his appearance fee while everybody else did the hard work for him.
Each of the puzzles has five levels of difficulty to progress though. As well as making things harder, later levels often throw in new elements to keep things interesting. Winning a stage will earn medals, which in turn earns coins that buy new levels and unlock stages.
To that effect, the goals are less abstract, making the game more entertaining in the short-term. Its derivative nature aside, it takes more a parlour game approach than Brain Training. Then again, considering you've probably come across all that it has to offer in the many years you've been on this planet - and in a way that doesn't have the sinister Dr. Knizia beaming chillingly at you through the DS - its appeal is somewhat diminished.
Hurry Up Hedgehog!
- Developer: Ivolgamus
- Publisher: Oxygen Games
Here you go then, readers. It's the Eurogamer roundup regular you've all been waiting for: the truly awful game we had to slip in here to illustrate karmic balance. For every 10/10 GTA IV, there's a Hurry Up Hedgehog, and I have to play it.
True to form, I knew nothing of Hurry Up Hedgehog's contents when I loaded it up. A glance should tell me all I need to know. The Euro-animation hedgehogs on the front of the box say 'kid's game'. A quick read of the back picks out the word "brainteasers". Ah, then. A mini-game puzzle collection, I surmise.
So before we go any further, perhaps it's best to quote verbatim from the in-game instructions. As they put it: "The basic rules are easy. First, a lane is selected in which a hedgehog will move forward. Then you have the option of moving a hedgehog from your own team sideways one place. Lastly, you move any hedgehog in the selected row forward by one space. As soon as you've made that forward move, it's the end of your turn. Get three hedgehogs home and you've won!"
Why print all that? Because that's not just the rules, it's the whole damn game. It's played out on a top-down 9x6 grid in which each player takes a turn to get to the end, choosing moves that force rivals into pitfall traps that pepper the board. It's based on a boardgame, naturally, but even its origins don't allow us to forgive its meagre offerings.
Up to six players can compete, wirelessly or with the same DS. The thought of six friends or family members huddled round a DS for game like this is inconceivable. This is hardly Settlers of Catan. Save your DS for Zelda: a piece of graph paper and some cardboard will see you right and feel a lot more practical and life-enhancing than wasting money on this. You won't get to see a badly-drawn hedgehog pelvic-thrusting when you cross the finish line if you do, but you can't have everything, can you?