Xbox Live Arcade Roundup • Page 2

Bliss Island and Brain Challenge.

Brain Challenge

  • Publisher: Gameloft
  • Price: 800 Microsoft Points (GBP 6.80 / EUR 9.60)

This latest Brain Training knock-off earns some kudos for not even bothering to mask its Nintendo-copying tendencies. It even looks like a DS game, with eerie smiling Real Doll tutors who deliver their Stepford-style judgments in silent word balloons.

The concept is, of course, utter arse. Starting from the nonsensical lingering misconception that we only use 10 percent of our brains, we're once again expected to believe that grinding through daily reaction and observation tests will somehow make us smarter. Intelligence actually comes from, you know, the less sexy notions of learning facts and the application of logical and lateral thought but as long as Dad feels like he's staving off the intellectual atrophy of middle age by playing a jumped up shape-matching "computer game", who are we to argue?

There are twenty challenges spread across five sections - Memory, Visual, Logic, Maths and Focus - with only one unlocked in each at the start. Keep playing and you'll open up more games that can then be played on their own, or as part of the daily test. Trouble is, the games are a dull bunch, reliant either on rudimentary mental agility or Fisher Price pattern recognition. Many, such as the Bouncing Balls game where you have to spot which ball is bouncing highest, have absolutely no point and simply rely on looking at things with your eyes and making your best guess. There's absolutely nothing here beyond the sort of hand-eye-brain coordination that you practice while playing pretty much any videogame, but then that doesn't have the obligatory pseudo-scientific veneer required to ensnare the sort of customers who think poo-loving Gillian McKeith is an actual medical doctor. The game does include some howlers - using "friend's" instead of "friends" - which made me laugh in a hollow ironic fashion.

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I have serious doubts about this woman's academic credentials.

All the expected charts and grades are present and correct, should you wish to know how the game rates your brain on its own arbitrary scale, while the Creative Mode generously encourages you to "have fun". There's a mode for kids, which didn't seem any easier than the normal version to me, as well as an online and offline multiplayer mode in which you complete challenges in order to get rid of cards in a sort of "Carol Vorderman does Uno" affair.

What it doesn't have is an option for different people to have their own profile in the game, which seems like a rather silly omission. The game just assumes that it's the same person playing every time, so families wishing to enforce their own fascistic Brain Challenge regime will have to log in and out of different Xbox Live accounts every time. There's also no limit on how many times you can take the daily test, so you can just sit there for a few hours and crank your score up through repetition rather than any genuine increase in skill.

For all my reservations about the format, there's definitely an audience for this sort of thing out there and while 800 Points puts this in the upper price bracket for Live Arcade, it still makes it the cheapest brain game option around. In that regard at least, it gets the job done.

6/10

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