While the DS game market is flooded by titles aiming to improve brain capacity and abilities, most of them have found limited success with gamers and critics. As the number of hacky Brain Age clones grows, it becomes harder to take the genre seriously.
However, Brain Voyage shook up my perception, with surprisingly fun gameplay and an overall great presentation. The game is also 100% stylus-controlled, making it accessible to almost anyone. Read More...
The game is creative and neatly presented. The main mode titled “World Tour” has Dr. Reiner Knizia, apparently a real-life expert in algorithmically generated logic problems sending us to different cities across a world map. From London to New York to Beijing and even Greenland, levels are distinctively designed to evoke the city in which they take place. Both sound and graphics are upbeat and lively and generally great for a DS title of this nature.
Each level focuses on specific memory, logic, mathematic or observation skills. Players can buy their way to more difficult versions of levels by spending the coins acquired by obtaining bronze, silver and gold medals on these challenges. Each level ranges from difficulties levels one through four.
Math games include “Operators” and “Sea Life”. The first faces players with equations lacking their mathematical symbols. The goal is to complete the most equations within the time limit. The second presents a number of sea creatures on radar which players have to count as quickly as possible before the time runs out.
For memory training we find “Match”, a version of the traditional memory game where cards are flipped over and paired until none remain. “Orchestra” has players repeat instrument patterns for as many rounds as possible, similar to the Simon game which so many of us grew up with.
Games aiming to test your observation skills include “Labyrinth” where we must find artifacts in a maze that is only partially revealed. “Trainspotting” is more challenging. It shows you two sets of trains, with slightly different wagons; the challenge here is to tap the wagon for each difference spotted before the wagons roll away. As you increase the difficulty level, trains will travel with a delay making the game quite tricky.
The logic category is predominant. We find “Enigma” a game where players have 10 chances to find the right combination of light switches. This game truly tests your logic, leaving you to rely on previous combinations, which only say how many switches were correctly turned on, to find the solution. In a cross between Battleship and Minesweeper, “Icecap” has us trying to locate lost pieces of equipment under ice while avoiding digging too many holes.
“Royal Flush” is a poker game on a grid. Mostly using half the deck of cards, players try to make the best hands possible with the cards handed. As you advance in difficulty, the grid increases in size. This particular game was so enjoyable, I found myself playing it over and over even after having won all the medals on all difficulties.
Another interesting aspect of Brain Voyage is the history behind each level. Before explaining the basics of a game to players, Dr. Knizia tells us the reason he created these exercise. For example, he tells us the “Match” game, set in Moscow, was created for the Russian Secret Service. Whether or not these anecdotes are true is unclear, but this adds a unique touch to the game.
Unlike similar titles (My Word Coach, Professor Kageyama's Maths Training, Brain Age) the game lets you play for as long as you like. It sets no daily quota to limit the game play, but it does not claim to be a daily training program either. This allowed me to get more deeply involved in the game, retrying levels over, unlocking new ones and exploring as many of them as my free time would permit.
Also, neatly enough, perseverance is rewarded. After repeatedly attempting to beat the gold medal score on a level, and failing, I ended up being rewarded with three coins (used to unlock new levels and difficulties) simply for continuing to try – a persistence award. This simple feature brought a smile to my face, knowing that my efforts were recognized even if unsuccessful.
Other modes include Random Play, which allows you to try 4, 8 or 16 random puzzles as they get unlocked in the world map. A Puzzle Bank allows you to replay specific saved puzzles once they have been completed in the world tour. Finally, the game also includes the DS Download Play feature, so you can share your unlocked puzzles with friends locally.
At the time of writing this review, I was approximately two thirds of the way through the game. While I still have a few levels to unlock, I already find Brain Voyage to be one of the best games of its genre.
Its presentation is sleek and it is clear that a lot of care went into putting it together. It is definitely one of a kind. And if you have a few minutes to spare, make sure to check out the quirky credits (located in the options menu) to see our friend Dr. Knizia dancing to the lights and sounds of a disco tune!
+ Unlimited gameplay sessions, not limited to 5-10 minutes a day
+ Excellent presentation
+ DS download play available
- Some levels are much harder than others
- Not built as a daily trainer, so no overall evaluation of your skill level
- Dr. Reiner Knizia is virtually unknown outside of Europe