Challenge Me: Brain PuzzlesESRB:
Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Developer: Oxygen Interactive
Publisher: Oxygen Games
In terms of my style of gaming, I have never been a huge puzzle game fan. To be honest, the only two puzzle games that I truly ‘got into’ were Tetris and Peggle. I have never been able to sit for long periods and play many other puzzle games, let alone any for the DS. So when the budget title Challenge Me: Brain Puzzles for Nintendo’s handheld hit my desk I was somewhat sceptical given that I am not the biggest fan of the genre. My wife is a fan of any puzzle game on the DS, so she is more apt to give an opinion or two. Regardless, I took to the task, put the tiny cartridge into my DSi, and took the game for a spin.
Visually, Challenge Me: Brain Puzzles is as simple as they come. The game is very readable and the simple approach works. That being said, when I sit and think about it the visuals don’t do anything to make the game that appealing. Yes I know, this is a puzzle game, and the big question out there that I think many of you may have is “what could have been done to make it any better?” I don’t have that answer, but what was evident to me what that the game seems limited to about three or four colours and given that the Picture Puzzles are picture oriented, more colour could have been nice here. Overall the visuals are serviceable for the content available, but I just wish there was a little more pizzazz to make the game better on the eyes, but in the end the game is all about making your brain work while solving puzzles and the visuals are secondary to this task.
As for the sound, they are a result of the same level of work that went into the visuals. In other words, not a whole lot went into this area. You will find that the music is somewhat generic, even bordering on cheesy. In many ways I found that the music that was included did not enhance anything given the nature of the game and what was there was forgettable. In terms of any in-game sound effects, what is present is functional, but nothing spectacular. In many ways this should be expected in a game that has the puzzles it does. Overall the sound does not impact the overall gameplay as it is just something that is there.
Challenge Me: Brain Puzzles main content comes in the form of two different puzzle types: Sodoku and Picture Puzzles. Anyone who considers themselves a “puzzler” knows what Sodoku is, but there are a few out there who are not yet aware of this phenomenon. It is a logic game that originated from Japan and can be found in most daily papers, online, and in other portable console games. It is very similar to a crossword but it uses numbers. You basically have to figure out how all the available numbers fit into a 3x3 square. It sounds simple but it can be very challenging to say the least.
The other types of puzzle, the Picture Puzzles, are very similar to those of Picross. You are presented with vertical and horizontal colors and numbers, and the goal is to figure out where these go in order to create a picture. As with Sodoku, it sounds simple but man can it be tough. As I sit here at my computer writing this review I am trying to think of the best way to truly describe how it works. The best thing I can put together is that it is basically a process of elimination were you try to figure out which blocks need to shade specific areas and in which colour. Eventually, as you start to get all the blocks in their proper spots, and proper color, you will see an image start to form. In some ways it is like virtual Lego.
In terms of control, inputting numbers is quite basic. Gone are some of those number recognition software schemes that other puzzle games implement which would require you to write any number and the game would interpret it. For Challenge Me: Brain Puzzles it is as simple as using the touch screen to “point and drag”. It may not seem like a big thing, but trust me, not everyone writes numbers the same and this allows you to focus on the task at hand, solving puzzles as efficiently as you can.
I mentioned earlier that I am not the biggest puzzle game fan, and it is this fact that I have to air my biggest complaint, that being that there are no tutorials in this game. In some ways it may take away from the casual audience that these types of games are also geared towards. Sure, puzzle fans will already take a serious look at this game, but those casual fans who seem to be also buying up this type of software will find that they have no introduction to the types of puzzles offered in this title. Now I can almost live with the lack of such for Sudoku given how long the logic puzzle has been out there, and how easy it is to find out how to play (e.g. online or other games), but for the Picture Puzzles this was a huge omission. It was trial and error for me to learn how to solve these types of brain teasers, as the lack a tutorial hindered my ability to easily learn what I was doing. Given that I am not a fan of the genre to begin with, this made my time with the game somewhat frustrating. Even my wife, who loves to puzzle on her DS, had issues with the Picture Puzzles. I think that some sort of tutorial should have definitely been included or at least a more detailed instruction set in the manual. Regardless, this is my biggest and most annoying issue with Challenge Me: Brain Puzzles.
In terms of overall content, there are a lot of puzzles to keep you busy. I didn’t get a chance to play all the puzzles on the DS card, but given that I was busy for a weekend of solid play time for this review, I would offer to say that there will be a lot of puzzles for any diehard to play in small intervals. This is somewhat of a plus given that you can take your DS (or DSi) on the road with you, play at any given time, and it will take awhile to get through all the available content. There are a few different modes of play available too, with the two most prevalent being Free Play and Challenge Modes. Free Mode is just what it says; it is a mode that allows you to attempt to complete each puzzle with the freedom of no time constraints or pressure . The Challenge Modes will keep track, tell you how you are progressing and will offer up specific challenges to test your puzzle solving skills.
The skill level required to play this game varies as well Should you have any knowledge of how to play either types of these puzzles then you will find that you can be somewhat successful, however as you get into the later puzzles they do start to ramp-up in terms of overall difficulty. Of course as already mentioned, the lack of a tutorial may hamper those new to these types of puzzles.
At the end of the day, Challenge Me: Brain Puzzles does what it is supposed to, it offers up some cranial challenges in two very specific types of puzzle modes in a very functional manner. Being a budget title, fans of puzzle games could surely find worse ways to spend 20 bucks or so.