Braineous in Review: Cashing in on the “Brain” Genre?
In the time-honoured tradition of portable gaming, there have always been the stodgy genres: arcade, simulation, adventure, strategy, defense, puzzlers and racing. Eventually, however, parents became involved in the gaming lives of our pioneering gamer forebears. With such came the hitherto uneeded educational gaming genre into our pat world. From that day, our lives as gamers have changed. We are increasingly faced with addictive and mildly fun edugames popularised recently on the DS in titles such as Brain Age and Kanji Training.
Now, straight from TryThis Networks, Inc. to your iPod Touch or iPhone is the title, Braineous. I hesitate to call it educational so will use Try Networks’ own term, stimulating. Inside you will find a stimulating series of 10 games and an iconic monkey that trods on your ego.
From their website:
How smart are you? Assemble puzzles, solve math problems under pressure and match gestures as accurately as you can before time runs out. Braineous includes 10 exercises to stimulate your neurons, but the challenge doesn’t stop there. Think you’re good? Submit your score to the TryThis Network and compare yourself with the rest of the world to find out how smart you REALLY are.
Presentation and Gameplay
Braineous’ games make heavy use of the touch screen with tapping, tracing, swiping and in small amounts, gestures. However, it is mostly variations of tapping on a selection that will keep your fingers busy. For instance, in early stages, you will use your fingers to tap a number on a number pad or make direct selections of icons. As more levels open up, you will be directed to trace paths, follow floating icons and tap in sequence. All input methods have been seen before so little acclimatisation is needed though innovation would be nice.
Similar to the been there, done that input methods, the graphics are in general, bland. While bright and cheery there are many graphical oversights and/or glitches that are stumbleworthy. Some buttons have graphical residue and need to be taken back to illustrator in order to look nice. The same goes for the odd jagged edge but most annoying is the recycling of images over and over again in a game that is supposed to stimulate your brain. Sheep, characters, the monkey’s stage are all grind meat taken from as far up as Microsoft’s Powerpoint or as low as the game itself. Developers have many items to worry about in upcoming releases and I understand a hasty release however, for the price of 3.99$ I would have expected a more professional graphical experience.
Sound too is a sad affair. It is lacklustre even in this genre. Clapping, booing, and silly melodies. It won’t get deeper than that.
Gameplay is a mixed bag. Some games are fun but others are simply pointless. For instance in stage three you are asked to choose similar objects. I was asked to find 3 red fruits but only found two. The final answer was a watermelon which is drawn with a clearly green skin but red centre. The next question asked me to find 3 peeled fruits. None on the screen were peeled. Am I as a player supposed to know which fruits the author peels? Does prophecy count as smarts?
I will admit that I enjoyed the maths section. I will also admit that I had to relearn what I thought I would never again use in my adult life: times tables. That is a work in progress. Other sections including tracing were markedly more fun and will undoubtedly generate fans in the App Store.
Scoring is a touchy affair but one that unlocks the best part of the game: competition. After a session, you can submit your profile and scores to the network and see how well you did in relation to your peers around the globe. At the time I submitted, I was ranked 15th in the world: not bad. There may be more than 20 players now so by all means, if you buy this game, submit your scores and boost my ego.
Overall, I found very little truly interesting outside of the online scoring system. Everything was either bland, too hastily thrown together or too deep in deja vu. I am still scratching my head and wondering if this game improved anything in my brain. And, to whom is Braineous aimed? It makes no mention of kids on its TryThis Networks’ webpage but I cannot imagine anyone without kids playing longer than I did. After a few months on the App Store, I am sure Try Networks will release updates and better define their audience on the homepage. As it is now, Braineous is a far cry from being worth the 3,99$ from your wallet and 17 megabytes of space on your iPhone’s disk.