Release Date: March 13, 2007
Brain training. Prior to the release of the Nintendo DS, this game genre was all but barren. There were a few puzzle titles here and there, but even hardcore gamers would have been hard-pressed to name one. However, ever since Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day was released for the DS, we've seen a noticeable upswing in both the quality and quantity of this type of game. Not to be confused with educational games, brain training works on improving the speed and accuracy of how your brain functions, rather than teaching you new things. I'll admit, I don't know how well it works (I certainly don't feel much smarter), but I will say one thing: By and large, these games are among the most fun you'll ever have with self-improvement.
QuickSpot varies a bit from Brain Age or Big Brain Academy in that it focuses on a single task. Rather than performing math problems or picking out shapes, QuickSpot encourages you to spot the disparities between two pictures. This may sound like a simplistic concept, but Namco-Bandai seems to have taken a page from Nintendo's own Warioware series, to great effect.
The top screen of the DS displays a picture, the bottom displays a similar picture, and you'll have to find and circle the dissimilarities on the bottom touch-screen. In one stage, there may be an extra fish swimming in the river, or a third cloud hidden in the sky, or a small cameo by a Namco character hidden somewhere in the trees. It sounds simple enough, and in all honesty, it is — which is why QuickSpot throws various obstacles in your path.
There are three different types of gameplay: Rapid Play, Focus Play, and Today's Fortune. You are timed in the game's default Rapid Play mode, so not only do you have a limited amount of time to find the difference between the pictures, but the entire stage also has its own separate clock. Once that runs out, the game's over.
For those who prefer a slower gaming pace, the untimed Focus Play has you searching for multiple disparities on a single map. To keep it challenging, a player is only allowed three "mistakes" before failing the stage. With over 50 Focus Play stages available, this is sure to provide a solid challenge for players who prefer a slower tempo in their gaming.
The final available mode, Today's Fortune, is weird but oddly addictive. It's divided up into four sections — Health, Study, Romance and Money — and for each section, you have to play five quick rounds of QuickSpot. You aren't being graded per se, and although each round has multiple dissimilarities for you to spot, you can only select one per round. Your choices ultimately influence your fortune, which is given to you in a score (one to five, with five being the best) and a quirky little message about what your life will be like that day. You can only get your fortune once daily, but it's a rather fun way to start things off … unless, of course, you get low scores across the board.
At the end of each stage, QuickSpot throws a "boss" at you. Since the game isn't about combat, these bosses take the form of some sort of unique obstacle that makes it more difficult to find the correct choice. One boss may cover the lower screen with dust, forcing you to rub off the dust before you can find and circle the correct choice. Another may animate all pictures, making it more difficult to spot the dissimilarities. Once you've completed a boss, its gimmick will randomly show up in subsequent stages, turning a relatively simple process into a complex challenge.
Not only is each stage timed, but the player is also graded on how well s/he does. At the end of every stage, your accuracy, speed and judgment are measured, and your overall ranking is modified. A score of 100 is "average," and how well you do either raises or lowers this total score. Furthermore, exceptionally high speed and accuracy can unlock medals, which can then be used to unlock SP stages — modified stages with special gimmicks to provide an extra challenge to those skilled players who can earn them.
For those looking for a more social brain-training experience, QuickSpot also offers multiplayer modes for both single and multi-cart play: Time Bomb and Scramble. Time Bomb is such a good idea that I'm surprised I haven't already seen it in a DS game. Using a single DS, players take turns playing a round of QuickSpot and then passing the DS to another person as fast as possible. Whoever is holding the DS when the "bomb" goes off is out, and the last one left standing is the winner. On the other hand, Scramble looks a bit more average but has the potential to be just as fun. Up to four players, each with their own DS, scramble to find the difference before the others, and the highest score wins. It's simplistic, but it has the potential to be an extremely exciting gameplay mode once QuickSpot comes out.
One thing that will make QuickSpot particularly appealing to Namco fans is the sheer amount of cameos to be found. From iconic Namco mascot Pac-Man to cuddly platform stat Klonoa to the Prince of the Cosmos and his cousins from Namco's quirky Katamari Damacy, the cameos never stop. While the game's picture work is already very nice, it was a pleasant surprise to come across Namco characters both obscure and popular. The rest of the artwork is made up of an amusing mix of styles, ranging from comic book superheroes to rather unsubtle cheesecake shots.
Like Warioware, QuickSpot looks to be on its way to taking a simple concept and turning it into an addictive "pick up and play" phenomenon. Rather than a multi-hour RPG or intense first-person shooter, QuickSpot will be one of those games that you play for five minutes while you're on a break or looking to pass some time … only to look up and realize that an hour has suddenly flown by.