And after my week-long foray into the world of Dummies, we arrive at the destination: Brain Training. (I’d like to say I saved this one for last because I felt I needed to exercise my brain after the previous two, but I didn’t even think of that until now.)
Like Travel Games for Dummies and Poker for Dummies before it, Bran Training for Dummies is an EA Casual game utilizing the “for Dummies” license. If you’ve ever walked into a store which sells books in the last decade, chances are it’s a franchise you’re at least passably familiar with. EA hoped for big things with their new focus on edutainment, and while Poker for Dummies failed miserably and Travel Games for Dummies got some things right, Brain Training for Dummies is almost exactly what they were aiming for.
Much like Brain Age and the innumerable spawns and offshoots Nintendo’s series created, Brain Training for Dummies is less of a game, and more of an entertaining mental exercise. The game is composed of multiple mini-games, all of which utilize skills to help sharpen two of six areas: math, reflexes, logic, language, spatial, and memory. Before you even begin playing the game explains just what each area is, although if you couldn’t already figure that out, I’m not sure if this game will help you much.
After the introduction, you’re thrown into the thick of things. Much like the two other titles, the game is broken up into How-To, Practice, and Play sessions. Once again, How-To and Practice are pretty self explanatory, so I’ll jump straight ahead to Play.
Brain Training for Dummies features 15 different brain-boosting mini-games, each of which comes with 25 levels of difficulty. When you decide it’s time to increase your brain’s potential, you’re given the choice of three circuit modes (ie game types): Full, Mini, and Skill. Full Circuit presents you with 15 randomly selected puzzles of your current cognitive level; Mini Circuit gives you six; Skill Circuit lets you choose which specific area of the brain you want to focus on and gives you puzzles which will work on that. No matter which Circuit you choose, in the earlier stages the game offers no challenge at all and is incredibly boring; we’re talking “What is four minus two?” boring. As things ramp up and you keep clearing the stages, the tasks become increasingly harder and you’ll find yourself with less and less time.
Unfortunately, if you already know you’re going to excel in a certain type of mini-game or brain area, there’s no way to skip ahead; you have to painstakingly wade your way through the earlier levels until you get to the next. On the flipside, if you find a puzzle too difficult and just want to go back a step, you can’t play lower difficulties in the Circuit mode. Instead, you’re forced to stick with individual practice matches, which are nowhere near as engaging as the Circuit modes.
Brain Training for Dummies succeeds in its attempt to make a well-crafted collection of brain exercising activities and challenges. Sadly, not nearly as much time is put into the presentation or non-gameplay aspects and the game just doesn’t feel as engaging as Brain Age. The lack of competitive features, multiplayer, and personality make this feel more like a pure educational tool than an edutainment one. Brain Training for Dummies will certainly do what it claims to do well enough for most casual gamers, but if you weaned your teeth on Brain Age, chances are you’re going to come away disappointed.